Brazil booked their place in the FIFA World Cup quarterfinals in dramatic fashion on Saturday, defeating Chile 1-1 (3-2 on penalties) in Belo Horizonte.
David Luiz bundled home a corner to open the scoring for the visitors, but they were soon pegged back by Alexis Sanchez. They battled through extra time but couldn't be split, and it was Julio Cesar who emerged as the hero of the shootout.
Formations & XIs
Brazil fielded their usual 4-2-3-1 formation, with the only personnel change coming in the form of Fernandinho for Paulinho (straight swap). Hulk started on the left of midfield, Oscar right and Neymar central.
Chile pursued with their 3-4-1-2 and returned Arturo Vidal to the No. 10 position behind the forward line. Felipe Gutierrez dropped out as a result.
After attempting to gain the upper hand by out-singing one another during the national anthems, both teams showed great energy and tried to out-press each other on the pitch too.
Chile, as expected, committed three men to a top-level press and asked Vidal to play a very, very aggressive role as a No. 10. They closed David Luiz off pretty swiftly because of his long-range passing where possible, and generally made it difficult for the full-backs to play out with the ball.
Brazil's decision to play Oscar and Hulk wide made more sense when they began hounding Chile's defensive line on the ball, with Francisco Silva in particular struggling to make quick decisions under pressure.
The game was end-to-end for about 60 minutes due to the energy and commitment of the players.
Neymar on the Shoulder
Part of Brazil's comfort with kicking long was not to find the head of Fred, but to seek out the clever runs of Neymar.
He played inside as a No. 10, but never threatened to be the conduit for possession, or the tackle-breaking playmaker, many would expect from one playing in his area.
It was more 4-4-2 than 4-2-3-1 at times, with Fred attracting two markers on the right side of the formation, and allowing Neymar to challenge Silva in the channel one vs. one.
He got Silva booked early and tormented him with ease. Had Gary Medel been fit enough to slide over he likely would have, but he wasn't fit enough to commit to the tracking.
The game moved through phases of control in the second half, with both teams enjoying spells on the ball. Chile accrued most of that and looked the most threatening, though, boasting 62 percent of the possession by the 60-minute mark, per WhoScored.com.
The big shift in momentum came when Vidal limped off. He was injured coming into the tournament, fresh from knee surgery, and removing his energy and menace from the front line swung the play in Brazil's favour.
Unopposed (or close to it), Brazil began working the left side and forcing the ball through the tight spaces to put players one versus one with Silva again. Hulk and Neymar both troubled the Chile defensive greatly.
Charles Aranguiz, sometimes unfairly referred to as a poor man's Vidal, did his best to replicate the energy but Vidal is a different animal entirely.
Not Cut Out
Chile's playing style—fast, aggressive counters, intricate movements and furious pressing—is not cut out for 120 minutes and penalties.
The moment Brazil took the game to extra time it felt as though the Selecao would eventually win, and the fact that La Roja's key players were being held together, quite literally, by tape, wasn't helping either.
They can overwhelm you in 90 minutes, but after that they'll slow. For the last 10 minutes of extra time they were dropping deep, holding on and praying for penalties. Even Alexis Sanchez was too tired to run.
With Mauricio Pinilla smashing the crossbar with two minutes to play, it's fair to say Brazil were fortunate to emerge from this one victorious—refereeing decisions included.
Former Brazil international Juninho appeared disgruntled on live TV post-match:
"We don't know how to play long ball. We need to play through the middle," he moaned. "The second half we didn't play at all, and we expect so much from Neymar even when hes not involved in the game."
But the important thing is that they're still in; it was too early for the hosts to go out.
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