Chelsea’s Brazilian trio are still in the World Cup after a dramatic penalty shootout victory against South American rivals Chile.
Brazil were again largely unchanged from their usual set up – the only change from the Selecao’s last game against Cameroon saw Manchester City’s Fernandinho come in for Paulinho in the heart of midfield. Chile played with their usual 3-4-3, with a handful of names that Chelsea fans will recognise starting – Cardiff’s Gary Medel playing on the right wing rather than his usual centre-back position, and ex-West Brom man Gonzalo Jara, a right-back by trade, playing behind the striker as Chile attempted to make the last eight for the first time since 1962.
Chelsea fans saw all three of their Brazilian stars play at one point or another during the clash inside the Estadio Mineirao, with Oscar starting, and Ramires and Willian featuring as extra-time substitutes.
It was however to be a former Chelsea man who opened the scoring – at least according to the scoresheets. The record books will show that David Luiz scored his first Brazil goal, however it looked more like a combination of the ex-Chelsea defender and Chile’s Jara as the ball was bundled over the line from a corner. Either way, Brazil had taken the lead to turn the already electric atmosphere in Belo Horizonte up a few notches.
Neymar attempted to put space between the two sides, as he raced through on goal but failed to hit the target. Chile always remained a threat throughout and there was always a feeling that an equaliser was never too far away.
After a few half chances here and there, Chile had finally drew level the tournament’s hosts. One of their mercurial talents in Alexis Sanchez capitalised on a defensive lapse and fired into the bottom corner.
Hulk – and indeed everyone in the stadium – thought he had given Brazil the lead once again not long after half time, but English referee Howard Webb had ruled it out for a handball. It initially appeared harsh, but replays showed that he had got it right, much to the chagrin of the swathes of yellow in the stadium.
It was Chile’s turn to crank the pressure up as it took a superb stop from QPR goalkeeper Julio Cesar to deny Charles Aranguiz. Not to be outdone, Chile’s stopper Claudio Bravo also produced a marvellous stop from Hulk’s effort to keep it level as the game headed to extra time.
Chile were the width of a crossbar away from breaking the hearts of millions as Mauricio Pinilla smashed the woodwork in the final minute of extra time, and so the game went to penalties.
David Luiz took the first penalty for Brazil, and after a trademark huge run up, dispatched it to get the shootout off and running. A miss from a nervous Willian was sandwiched between two fantastic saves from Julio Cesar, to keep Brazil ahead 1-0 after two penalties each. Marcelo and Aranguiz then scored their penalties, before Hulk failed to convert to level the scores at 2-2. Neymar drilled his penalty into the bottom corner, and up stepped Gonzalo Jara to keep Chile in it but could only to contrive to hit the post to give Brazil the most dramatic of victories in this enthralling encounter.
With that win, Brazil will play Colombia on Friday night in the first quarterfinal.