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The Brazilians fought hard, and rode the performances of their 2 centre backs to upset one of the top teams of the tournament. Harsh Khara analyses what turned out to be a memorable game.
The host team stepped up for a big quarter final clash against the form team of the tournament, Colombia on a hot night. This was touted as a clash of 2 teams that would entertain, with the likes of Neymar, Oscar, Cuadrado, and James expected to dazzle. Instead, we saw the dark side of both teams in a game that saw a lot of fouls, and eventually, a heart breaking injury for the star of the tournament, Neymar.
FORMATION & LINE-UPS
Brazil (4-2-3-1): Julio Cesar; Maicon; Thiago Silva (capt); David Luiz; Marcelo; Fernandinho; Paulinho (Hernanes, 86); Oscar; Neymar (Henrique, 88); Hulk (Ramires, 83); Fred.
Colombia (4-4-2): David Ospina; Juan Camilo Zuniga; Cristian Zapata; Mario Yepes (capt); Pablo Armero; Fredy Guarin; Carlos Sanchez; Juan Guillermo Cuadrado (Quintero, 80); James Rodriguez; Victor Ibarbo (Ramos, 46); Teofilo Gutierrez (Bacca, 70)
Brazil: Thiago Silva (6), Luiz (68)
Colombia: Rodriguez (80)
Brazilian Defense winning it for the team
The Brazilian defense in this game led from the front. The back four were solid and coupled with Paulinho and Fernandinho who often moved back to provide support looked unbeatable. The Brazilian defenders along with Fernandinho made a massive 32 clearances which completely overshadowed Colombia’s 12. Thiago Silva had a gem of a game and led from the front with 14 clearances and that meant Brazil’s defenders being as solid as a rock. Maicon’s inclusion over Dani Alves sprung several questions but he certainly proved his doubters wrong by being far better defensively and often nullifying the threat of Ibarbo. Both of Brazil’s goals were also scored by their centre backs with Thiago Silva capitalizing on a sleeping Carlos Sanchez and pushing the ball in the back of the net with the help of his knee as early as the 6th minute! David Luiz was also extremely stable and brilliant going forward. Luiz then scored a wonder free kick in the 68th minute which left Ospina comprehensively beaten. Marcelo often moved forwards and swung in crosses from the wing but did have a few problems with Cuadrado on the wing. Brazil in general defended far better than Colombia.They also made an impressive 16 blocks in comparison to Colombia’s 8. Brazil won the game courtesy their composure and solidity, something Colombia lacked. All in all the Brazilian defense defended brilliantly and made up for their strikers on the attacking front as well.
How Scolari Nullified James Rodriguez
Paulinho and Fernandinho were paired together in this game and were expected to provide cover to their defense. While Paulinho was the one who often ventured forward , Fernandinho stayed back and did a marvelous job overpowering the Colombian midfield. The Brazilians knew that they had to stop James Rodriguez and Fernandinho did exactly that. He tackled, he fouled, he shoved but he somehow managed to keep James Rodriguez as bay and limited his contribution to his team. James Rodriguez managed to create just 3 chances for his team and the intense and insane pressure supplied by Fernandinho and Paulinho was a major reason for that. James was also unable to pass the ball as freely as he’d wish and his passing accuracy was limited to just 64%. On the Contrary Fernandinho and Paulinho managed an impressive 88% passing accuracy and completely overshadowed the Colombian midfield. Fernandinho played his hatchet role to perfection and made sure that Colombia weren’t a threat from the start. Colombia’s attacks revolved around Cuadrado and Rodriguez and their fantastic link, Scolari made sure to break that link and Paulinho and Fernandinho did that with absolute perfection. With Cuadrado not providing him the passes or them often getting blocked, Rodriguez soon became the focal point and wasn’t good enough. This led to the Colombian full backs pushing forward and leaving them vulnerable at the back, something we expected from Brazil and something that we thought Cuadrado would exploit.
Set Pieces proving to make the difference
All three goals from this game came via set pieces, be it Thiago Silva tapping in an unmarked corner, Luiz’s perfect free kick or Rodriguez’s calm and cool penalty. Open play certainly lacked the sort of quality you would generally expect from these two teams. Brazil managed to create just 7 chances in comparison to Colombia’s 8 and that reflects how both these sides simply could not produce the sort of play you’d expect from them. Colombia were clogged in their passing and Brazil simply didn’t have a finisher with Fred continuing to disappoint. Both the strikers i.e Fred and Teo had extremely ordinary and average games, Colombia won their set piece only when Bacca had come on and had made a much needed difference. The Colombians certainly weren’t prepared for set pieces and Brazil capitalized on that magnificently. If you don’t take your chances then you wont win the game and that is something that Colombia had to learn the hard way.
Ruthless and recklessness ultimately decided this game
This game had a massive 53 fouls, a new record that was set. Brazil led from the front and fouled their Colombian counterparts an astonishing 30 times, including a possible red card for their keeper Julio Cesar (he was eventually let off with a yellow). The plan was simple from the Brazilians, get the ball irrespective of how you do it and they did not disappoint. After 52 minutes Brazil had already committed 18 fouls and did not have even a single yellow card with the referee proving to be rather lenient. The Colombians were bullied by the Brazilian midfield and in the second half you saw that even they were going to fight fire with fire. With players flying everywhere and with Neymar eventually suffering a broken vertebrae from a knee to his back ( for which Zuniga did not get a card ) this game was literally the definition of all or nothing. In the end the Brazilians came through and their juggernaut will roll on.
Key Player of the Match
This one was a close one for me and I had to choose between the Brazilian centre backs. Thiago Silva gave Brazil their all important lead and David Luiz mesmerized the crowd with his free kick but I’m going to give it to Thiago Silva and his loss will certainly leave a gaping hole in their defence which I do not believe Dante will be able to fill. Thiago Silva won 71% of his aerial duels, had an impressive 91 % pass accuracy, made a couple of blocks, 4 interceptions and the all important 14 clearances. Brazil committed 30 fouls but Silva committed only 1 and even managed to score a goal. Silva was a rock at the heart of Brazil’s defence and was the standout player for me in this game.
Where does this leave them
Brazil roll on to the Semi Finals of the World Cup and will face a confident Germany. Brazil will be without arguably their two best players this world cup i.e Neymar and Thiago Silva and it will be interesting to see how big a difference that would make to their play. While Neymar has been their greatest attacking threat, Silva had been their commander at the back and their absence might just leave them vulnerable to an efficient Germany. Scolari has been a master tactician and has particularly impressed in this game and will be looking to prove his critics wrong against an impressive Germany come Tuesday night.
Colombia were favourites of many of the neutrals and bow out of the tournament with absolute pride. They’re a young squad and Jose Pekerman’s men took everyone by surprise and were touted as favourites as well by certain sections of the media. In James Rodriguez they have a talisman and a star who will take the world by surprise in the coming years. Mario Yepes’ journey for Colombia probably comes to an end and the captain can bow out of the sport with absolute pride. This Colombia side will be missed, to say the least. We’d actually gotten used to their tactical brilliance.
Follow Harsh on twitter at @harshkhara