Ramires, Oscar and Willian became the first Chelsea players to reach this year’s semi finals, as their Brazil side knocked out fellow South Americans Colombia with a 2-1 win.
Luiz Felipe Scolari was forced into making two changes to the side that dispatched Chile in the last round thanks to suspensions, with Maicon coming in for Dani Alves at right back and Paulinho replacing Luiz Gustavo.
This meant that once more, Oscar was deployed from the start. Ramires enjoyed a seven minute cameo, while Willian watched on from the bench.
It was a night of high passion in Fortaleza, with tackles flying in and referee Carlos Velasco Carballo coming in for criticism for his leniency towards the challenges – surprising, given most referees propensity to protect Brazil this tournament.
It was much more like the free-flowing Samba style shown by Brazil that fans have associated with the Selecao, and at times it often looked like Colombia were going to be played off the park as many neat interchanges and fast attacking moves swept through the ranks of red shirts throughout the 90 minutes.
Brazil only had to wait 7 minutes for the party to begin, as captain Thiago Silva bundled home from a corner. It was Brazil’s fastest goal at a World Cup since Ronaldo’s 5th minute goal against Ghana in 2006. The stadium, as expected a sea of yellow and complete cauldron of noise, erupted as the PSG man what was only his third goal for his country.
Colombia, joint-top scorers at the World Cup with 12, looked somewhat limited against a Brazil side who finally showed what they could do. The mercurial James Rodriguez was again the focal point of Colombia’s attacking efforts, and grew increasingly frustrated at the lack of protection afforded to him by the referee as Brazil sought to take him out the game – both literally and metaphorically.
However, Colombia showed they were more than a one-trick pony as Juan Cuadrado, another player highly thought of within this side, came within inches of getting his side on the scoresheet. Their goalkeeper David Ospina also enjoyed a fine display, making several good saves from Oscar alone, despite conceding twice.
Brazil doubled their advantage on 68 minutes, when James Rodriguez fouled Neymar about 25 yards out. Up stepped ex-Blue David Luiz to thunder home a trademark delightful free kick, which Ospina – nor many other goalkeepers – stood no chance with. The outpour of emotion from Luiz upon scoring was a sight to behold, and brought back memories to those of a certain vintage of Marco Tardelli’s wild celebrations in 1982. With Thiago Silva having accumulated too many yellow cards ruling him out of the semi-final, the emotional Luiz will lead his side out a week on Sunday against Germany.
James Rodriguez, somehow unharmed from the several robust challenges thrown his way would still his say on proceedings, as his cute through ball found Carlos Bacca, who was upended by Julio Cesar in the Brazil goal, conceding a penalty. Up stepped Rodriguez, who sent Cesar the wrong way to score his 6th of the tournament and set up a grandstand finish. Sadly for him though, it was not to be as the host nation secured a semi-final birth and a date against the Germans for a place in the World Cup final.