Colombia’s dreams of a first ever appearance in the semi-finals of the World Cup were stamped out by tournament favorites Brazil in a scrappy affair in Fortaleza, that often more resembled a street fight than a football match. Both Neymar and James Rodriguez would try to inspire their countrymen, but it would be the performance of Brazil’s center-back pairing that would make the difference.
Both David Luiz and Thiago Silva would find the back of the night, while also putting out the fire that was Colombia’s attacking brand of football this summer. While many of us will miss their goal celebrations, their spirit in remembrance of Andres Escobar and the brilliant play of Rodriguez, Brazil continued to show that their new look, far less reliant on Joga Bonito, is still good enough to guide them to a record 6th World Cup title. With Germany on the horizon, their biggest test has yet to come.
Brazil (4-2-3-1): Cesar; Marcelo, Silva, Luiz, Maicon; Paulinho, Fernandinho; Neymar, Oscar, Hulk; Fred
Colombia (4-2-3-1): Ospina; Armero, Yepes, Zapata, Zuniga; Sanchez, Guarin; Ibarbo, Rodriguez, Cuadrado; Gutierrez
It would be the start Brazil craved, but the beginning Colombia wanted to avoid – Brazil opened the scoring inside just seven minutes when Thiago Silva converted from close range after Neymar’s corner found him completely unmarked in the box. Such poor marking from a side that have otherwise been impressive in all aspects for the duration of the tournament, but Brazil were not complaining. Now Colombia had to chase the match, playing right into Brazil’s game plan. Colombia came close to leveling less than three minutes later, but Juan Cuadrado’s effort deflected just wide of Julio Cesar’s near post.
Despite their brilliant performances in their previous matches, Colombia came out in the match completely choked up with nerves – poor first touches, misplayed passes, and creativity that was lacking. Despite Colombia being a step or two off, the match did have a real ebb and flow to it, but Brazil were still very much in the ascendancy from the off.
Five minutes from time, despite the manic nature of the match, the score was still 1-0. Colombia found their footing finally, and had half-chances from a number of set-pieces though nothing concrete would come from them. Brazil would come off the boil just a touch in the final stages of the half, but they were looking far more settled than against Chile. Both sides would go into the dressing room at the same scoreline, and despite it being a scrappy and open affair, Colombia had yet to truly assert themselves.
The first fifteen minutes of the second half offered little football, but certainly put on display not only the diving expertise of many, but the utterly abysmal officiating from the Spanish referee. Whether it was him being accustomed to presiding over La Liga matches or because there was a bias for Brazil (six of them were on yellow’s before kickoff), the match was more akin to a medieval pitched battle than a football match.
A moment of individual brilliance saw Brazil go 2-0 up in the 69th minute, not from Neymar, but from David Luiz. After Brazil had questionably won a free-kick from some 30-odd yards out, PSG’s newest acquisition sent a belter of an effort into the top corner past David Ospina. If Colombia were not back against the wall before, it was surely mission impossible for them now – Brazil were undefeated in their World Cup history with a 2-0 lead, winning all 48 matches when they lead by that scoreline.
Colombia would be thrown a lifeline however, when in the 79th minute Carlos Bacca was put through on goal but brought down in the box by Cesar – the resulting spot-kick was converted by Rodriguez, who was cool as a cucumber to bag his 6th of the tournament, and he became the second youngest player in history to score six goals at the World Cup. The youngest? Pele. The goal would spring Colombia to lie and renewed belief, but it would not be enough.
Full-time would sound, and Brazil were through to the semi-finals and a titanic clash with European giants Germany. Full credit must be given to Colombia, who dazzled us all with their many moments of pure footballing class, and for giving us the breakout summer of James Rodriguez’s footballing career. Brazil still remain invincible at home for nearly forty years, but have bigger tests to come.
Man of the Match
While you may have to question FIFA’s voting of David Luiz to be the player of the tournament thus far, you cannot argue against his brilliant performance today. He was a rock at the back along side long-time friend Thiago Silva, and scored Brazil’s second with a brilliantly struck free-kick from distance. While he may not be worth 50million pounds, time and time again he’s had a habit of coming up big in matches for both club and country and proving his doubters wrong. With Thiago Silva suspended for their semi-final clash with Germany, Luiz is going to have to be even more inspired against the boys from across the Rhein.