If Brazil carry on like this for much longer, cardiologists across the land will be raking in the profits. The Selecao's penalty shoot-out victory over Chile this afternoon was hard-fought, gritty and required the kind of mental toughness that carries successful sides forward in moments of adversity.
Much had been made prior to the game of the hosts' success over Chile in previous World Cups—including a 4-2 win in 1962 that took Brazil to the semi-final, a 4-1 second-round win in 1998 and a 3-0 win four years ago to the day at the same stage.
This Chile side, already responsible for bidding adios to Spain in group play, gave Brazil a real test. In fact, it was more than a test; it was a fright and, perhaps, even a wake-up call.
Brazil spent the second half in a state of suffocation, with their early pressure having been wiped out by an intuitive Alexis Sanchez strike. Only when Gonzalo Jara struck his penalty kick against the post could tens of millions breathe easy after a two-hour struggle.
Chile manager Jorge Sampaoli deserves all the plaudits currently flying in his direction. His team may not have been on the same technical level as their hosts, but Chile won the midfield battle during the second half and were inches from snatching the tie in the 120th minute, when Mauricio Pinilla saw his effort cannon back into play off the crossbar.
Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar, a player whose position between the sticks has not always sat easy with his fans, earned his moment of redemption. Saving efforts from both Pinilla and Alexis Sanchez in the shoot-out, the Toronto stopper showed why coach Luiz Felipe Scolari has stuck by his man.
The celebrations at the end were telling; players sat on the ground, drained from the physical effort of playing 120 minutes in brutal heat as well as the emotional turmoil a penalty shoot-out brings.
Luiz Felipe Scolari walked amongst his Brazilian troops, an inspirational general, dragging them to their feet and embracing hung bodies in a bear-like hug. This adventure is far from over, though; after being put through the mill today, Brazil need to be prepared for another South American showdown in Fortaleza on Friday.
Brazil's pre-World Cup form had bred confidence. After suffering such a scare against Chile, however, a meeting with Colombia or Uruguay cannot be taken for granted.
The side's weaknesses were laid bare in Belo Horizonte. Daniel Alves continues to flatter to deceive, with his solitary meaningful contribution coming during the first half via a speculative long-range effort that Claudio Bravo tipped over.
For the first 20 minutes, Brazil played with intent. But after David Luiz had put them ahead, the side retreated into their shell, attempting to hit Chile on the counter-attack, as Holland had done so effectively last Monday.
Brazil's ploy backfired. An under-hit pass from Hulk allowed Eduardo Vargas to divert the ball to Alexis, who deftly fired past Cesar to level the game.
Cesar was forced into action again before half-time, saving smartly from Charles Aranguiz. Whilst not exactly on the ropes, the hosts were far from the swashbuckling side we had become accustomed to seeing in friendlies.
Hulk had a goal ruled out six minutes after the interval, and Scolari was fuming on the touchline. It was a signal of things to come, as Brazil gradually lost control of proceedings on the pitch.
With Neymar limping since the ninth minute and both Fred and Oscar remaining anonymous, Hulk attempted to become a one-man gang against Chile's back three. Stripped of assistance along the front line, he resorted to blasts from distance, but nothing was getting past Bravo.
The 31-year-old goalkeeper had already been on the losing side on seven occasions against Brazil, including a 6-1 hammering in the 2007 Copa America, and he came damn close to ending that sorry run.
But in the shoot-out, Cesar ensured that Brazil avoided a disastrously premature exit. Successful spot kicks from David Luiz, Marcelo and Neymar gave Brazil a massive win over a team who pushed them all the way.
There will, however, be greater challenges to come. After failing to find it here, Brazil must cohesively link midfield and attack for a sustained period of time if the dream of a home victory is to become a reality.
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