It was a game played so intensely, with so much heart that you might have thought it was the World Cup Finals.
Two South American rivals, Brazil and Chile, met in a historic encounter today in Belo Horizonte. Despite it only being the first of the elimination round games, the fact that one of the dreams at stake was that of the wildly popular host country and that both competitors were remarkably evenly matched made this a game whose fate was not even close to being decided until the very last moment…Chile’s last penalty kick, to be exact.
The entire 120 minutes plus penalty shootout was quite possibly the most fast-paced game of the Cup, and it left not only the players exhausted, but the nervous fans across the world as well. The first half seemed to be controlled predominantly by the offensive hosts who created opportunities for themselves right up until the first goal of the game in the 18th minute with a corner kick by Brazil’s star forward Neymar that went from Thiago Silva to David Luiz to put the Brazilians up 1-0. The next and last goal of the game was entirely the fault of a poor move by Hulk and a hole in the Brazilian defense. Midfielder Hulk gave away the ball yards from the goal which made its way to Alexis Sanchez who happened to be unmarked and left with an easy shot that tied the score 1-1.
The speed continued throughout the first 90 minutes with the advent of powerful Chilean offense in the second half that had even the most die-hard Brazilian fan a little doubtful. A goal by the Brazilian Hulk could have put the host up 2-1 in the 54th minute, but a handball ensured it was annulled by the strict English referee Howard Webb. Attacks by the two opponents continued to the end with a particularly impressive shot by Hulk again which was saved by the Chilean goalkeeper Bravo. Seeing as how high the stakes were and how close the game was, fouls and yellow cards alike abounded. A grand total of 51 fouls and 7 yellow cards were a reality when all was said and done after 120 minutes of intense play. By the time overtime began players from both sides were visibly exhausted, there were fewer heart-stopping attacks or counter-attacks, but the almost palpable tension did not dissolve. However, a shot by Pinilla minutes from the end of overtime and the beginning of penalty kicks nearly sealed the deal for Chile and booted out the hosts, but it just missed the goal and bounced off of the crossbar. When the penalty shootout came, Brazilian goalkeeper Julio Cesar was quite the asset. His blocks and Chilean misses allowed for the ultimate triumph. The penalties were still just as pressured as the entire game had been up until that point. The final two shots–one Brazilian and one Chilean–began with the two teams tied 2-2. Neymar proved his worth as the team’s poster boy with his calculated shot, and then when Chile missed their kick the game finally ended.
To say it was well-fought would not do the match justice. Anyone watching was sweating right along with the players for 120 minutes plus the shootout, because a closer game I cannot imagine. This first elimination game has definitely set the bar high in terms of game excitement to come. Chile really did give Brazil a run for its money though, and despite the fact that they have qualified for quarter finals, their game against Colombia promises to be just as competitive as this one.
Final Score: 1 (Brazil): 1 (Chile), 3-2 Penalty Kicks
David Luiz — 18th minute
Alexis Sanchez — 32nd minute