You can't ask for a much better game than Brazil's win over Chile in penalties in the first game of the knockout phase at the 2014 World Cup. It was thrilling from whistle to whistle, with close calls, aggressive challenges and the ultimate drama, a penalty shootout.
Edge-of-your-seat stuff for over 120 minutes. God bless this sport.
As you might imagine, several of Brazil's top stars had themselves a game—and not all for positive reasons—and had Twitter absolutely buzzing. Let's take a look back at the afternoons of David Luiz, Hulk and Neymar.
Luiz, the man with a haircut as famous as any player in this World Cup, was the early Brazilian hero, as he was credited with the game's opening goal, even though it was clearly a Chile own goal on a set piece.
But hey, you take them how you can get them, right? ESPN FC passed along the goal:
Who cares if Luiz scored it? Let him take the credit; we can all appreciate his joy and the exuberance he plays the game with. If he indeed gets to keep the goal, it's quite the historic moment for him, as Paul Carr of ESPN noted:
David Luiz scores his first goal in 40 career appearances for #BRA.— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) June 28, 2014
Luiz also played a crucial part in preventing a Chile goal, making a heroic, sliding tackle in the six-yard box to prevent a Chilean goal. Tyler Duffy of the Big Lead wasn't quite convinced that that suddenly made him worth the huge transfer fee Paris Saint-Germain paid to acquire him from Chelsea, however:
If someone could point out to me when David Luiz does something that makes him worth a dump truck full of money, I would appreciate it.— Tyler Duffy (@tyduffy) June 28, 2014
Hulk, meanwhile, certainly had himself an interesting game. The brawny winger had a few dangerous runs, but much of his game was steeped in controversy. After Brazil took a 1-0 lead, it was Hulk's turnover on a throw-in—and to be fair, some suspect Brazilian defense and perhaps goalkeeping—that led to Chile's equaliser.
As you might guess, that brought out the jokes. Bruce Arthur of the Toronto Sun wins the "Most Clever Joke Referencing the Marvel Character" award:
Hulk smash, he said, quietly to himself. Why must Hulk always smash?— Bruce Arthur (@bruce_arthur) June 28, 2014
Dermot Corrigan of ESPN, meanwhile, was quick to come to Hulk's defense:
From replay of Chile goal seems a lot more Brazil players to blame than Hulk... one poor touch shouldnt open up whole back four like that...— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) June 28, 2014
But then the real controversy came. Hulk appeared to have scored the go-ahead goal in the second half, deftly controlling a lob over the top and getting just enough on his shot from across the face of goal to beat Claudio Bravo. It looked like a lovely bit of skill. But Howard Webb ruled that Hulk had used his hand to control the ball and not only disallowed the goal, but also brandished a yellow card.
Decide for yourself, as ESPN FC passed along the following video:
RESULTS! 79% think Howard Webb made the right decision & this was a handball from Hulk. You be the judge. WATCH » http://t.co/0pQI9H3NRZ— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) June 28, 2014
No doubt a tough call. Brian Phillips of Grantland certainly sympathized with Webb:
That ambiguous region of your body that neither is nor is not your arm.— Brian Phillips (@runofplay) June 28, 2014
That is an impossible call to make in real time even for someone who ISN'T Howard Webb.— Brian Phillips (@runofplay) June 28, 2014
And Matt Dickinson of The Times was left trying to figure out how exactly you know when to call a handball against Hulk and when you let the call go:
Hard to tell where those pecs end— Matt Dickinson (@DickinsonTimes) June 28, 2014
Dan Levy of Bleacher Report, meanwhile, was left Marveling at the entire situation:
Hulk went from hero to not in seconds. Guy needs to...Avenge that call.— Dan Levy (@DanLevyThinks) June 28, 2014
Things wouldn't end well for Hulk, either. Charged with taking one of Brazil's penalties after extra time came and went, his smashed shot was saved by Bravo. Andy Glockner of The Cauldron broke down the take:
Blatant early read from Hulk there. Brutal for a player of his caliber.— Andy Glockner (@AndyGlockner) June 28, 2014
And then there was Neymar. Brazil's brightest star and most electrifying talent was dangerous as always, but for much of the match, the final product wasn't quite there. Several times he appeared to be in dangerous positions but got a little cute rather than simply letting one rip. Still, he caught the eye of everyone watching.
Andrew Brandt of ESPN made the following apt description:
Random comparison: watching Neymar, I think of Iverson. Carry on.— Andrew Brandt (@adbrandt) June 28, 2014
But in the second half, Neymar wasn't quite the bright force we saw in the first half. Bill Barnwell of Grantland, for one, was wondering where he went:
Has Neymar fallen asleep— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) June 28, 2014
Suffice to say, Neymar was still around. Check out this chart from ESPN Stats & Information:
Still, when his team really needed him, with the game on the line in the penalty shootout, Neymar stepped up. With the chance to give his team a 3-2 lead in the shootout and put all the pressure on Chile, he delivered.
It would end up being the game-winner. And it would forever solidify Neymar's place in Brazilian lore, along with making him truly clutch. Folks on Twitter certainly noted the latter:
Iain Macintosh of ESPN noticed:
Neymar has got bollocks the size of boulders. I don’t even know how he sits down.— Iain Macintosh (@iainmacintosh) June 28, 2014
Pressure on Neymar - not just with pen, but in whole World Cup - just incredible. And he's taking it on. No wonder he got emotional there.— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) June 28, 2014
Dave Zirin of The Nation noticed:
Neymar wants a place on Brazil's Rushmore. What a player.— Dave Zirin (@EdgeofSports) June 28, 2014
Heck, Albert Breer of NFL.com noticed:
Gotta say too, the amount of pressure on Neymar there at 22 years old ... And he just absolutely nailed it.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) June 28, 2014
What a player. What a game. What a freaking tournament.
So Brazil live to fight another day and will await another South American foe in the quarterfinals, as they'll get the winner of the Colombia and Uruguay match. If that game is anything like Saturday's showdown between Brazil and Chile, well, you can expect a lot of panicked Brazilians a few days from now.
The hosts are alive. But boy, oh boy, were they oh so close to death in this tournament.