Wednesday - Aug 23, 2017

Brazil needs a penalty shootout to go through while Colombia eliminate a lackluster Uruguay

Brazil needs a penalty shootout to go through while Colombia eliminate a lackluster Uruguay

Saturday’s matches in the first day of the 8th round knockout stages of the World Cup were all South American affair.

In the first match played in Belo Horizonte, host nation Brazil was taken to a penalty shootout win against Chile which they dramatically won largely thanks to the efforts of their goalkeeper Julio Cesar.

Once again Brazil failed to really impress, with the lack of a finisher in the side become increasingly more obvious. It took a close range effort from defender Luiz, which many felt was an own goal from defender Hara in the 18th minute to give the Brazilians a fragile lead, which Alexis Sanchez equalized in the 32nd minute after a goalmouth scramble.

After that the mice became increasingly well-balanced with the only major highlight the normal time was when Hulk then had a strike disallowed for handball by experienced English referee Howard Webb. It was a close call for Webb and one which had the home fans on their feet in anger.

As the match progressed, the horrendous prospect of Brazil having to face a penalty kick shootout began to loom, all they almost nearly never got the after Pinilla smashed a rocket off the Brazilian crossbar in the final minute of extra time.

As Webb blew the final whistle was away to the on the third penalty kick shootout in their history, having won one and lost one, as well as having never lost a home match to Chile and coming out victorious on all three of their previous World Cup meetings.

With the home crowd behind them Brazil found a new hero in goalkeeper Julio Cesar made two crucial spot-kick saves, and in the process wiping the slate clean on costly mistake he made in the quarter-finals against Netherlands in the World Cup of 2010.

Julio Cesar saved from two spot kicks from Mauricio Pinilla and Alexis Sanchez with Gonzalo Jara missing the decisive fifth, with his kick coming off the inside of the post. For the Brazilians, David Luiz, Marcelo and Neymar successfully converted their efforts while Willian and Hulk failed the test.

Brazil now go to the quarter-final match against Colombia, having only managing to scrape through against Chile, with their lack of a proper striker becoming glaringly obvious, with Fred, Hulk and Jo still struggling to show what they can do.

In the later much of the evening, Colombian striker James Rodriguez added to his already considerable status, scoring twice in a comfortable victory for the Colombians, looked capable of giving Brazil a run for their money in the quarterfinal match. Uruguay, on the other hand, still seemed shell-shocked about the banishment of Luis Suarez, and were never a serious threat to win the tie in the massive Marcacana Stadium in Rio.

If Suarez undoubtedly has a dark side, then Rodriguez gives the impression of being squeaky clean as well as being immensely talented. Colombia went into the tournament with the 22-year-old baby faced striker being very much a second choice to the injured Radamel Falcao.

Rodriguez, who currently plays for Monaco but is already looking destined to join one of Europe’s top clubs, has put in a tremendous performance in all of the four matches he has started and is now top of the list of tournament’s scorers with five goals, as well as becoming the first player to score in the first four games of a World Cup since Brazil’s Ronaldo and Rivaldo achieved that feat in 2002.

Understandably, with all of the events of the last few days, the match itself had an atmosphere of anti-climax until Rodriguez lit up the Maracana, just before the half-hour mark, when he picked up a pass to half turn and volley home from 25 yards off the underside of the bar. James’s goal has been already placed high on the list of potential “goal of the tournament” winners.

Rodriguez hammer the nail in the coffin for Uruguay in the second half, rounding off an excellent team move, as if to prove that Colombia is far away from being a one-man band.

Thanks to their victory Colombia will now appear in the World Cup quarterfinals for the first time in their history, coming up against hosts Brazil in the quarter-final in Fortaleza on Friday. Who would bet against Colombia and Jamie Rofriguez to produce yet another sensation against a Luis Fillipe Scolari side which is far from running on all four cylinders.

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