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:
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:
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:
Dermot Corrigan of ESPN, meanwhile, was quick to come to Hulk's defense:
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:
No doubt a tough call. Brian Phillips of Grantland certainly sympathized with Webb:
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:
Dan Levy of Bleacher Report, meanwhile, was left Marveling at the entire situation:
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:
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:
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:
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:
Dave Zirin of The Nation noticed:
Heck, Albert Breer of NFL.com noticed:
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.