FIFA World Cup 2014 – Sunday 29 June 2014
I opted for the Brazil v Chile game yesterday and for once my TV choice proved to be a good one. It helps when you have a bit of an interest in the fixture and don’t mind admitting I was totally on the side of underdog Chile. Even sitting at home the passion of the crowd, the players and coaches was evident as the national anthems were belted out with an intensity that bordered on frightening.
And it was a level that translated onto the pitch in a frenzied, end-to-end opening forty five minutes. However, to think that it was just a game played at breakneck speed would be unfair as there was skill aplenty on both sides. Goals from David Luiz and Sanchez saw the teams go in level at the break enabling everyone to draw breath.
The second-half continued in the same manner although Brazil got the upper hand and Hulk for Brazil was single-handedly trying to drag his country through as Neymar was quiet. Extra-time came and nearly had a dramatic end as Chilean substitute Pinalla smashed a shot against the crossbar.
And so the drama continued into the penalties. With Brazil 2-0 to the good the result seemed a formality, but misses from Hulk and Willian allowed Chile to level. At 2-2 the pressure was all on the hosts and Neymar was next up. However he displayed great nerve in putting Brazil ahead and suddenly Chile knew that a miss and they were out. As in extra-time the woodwork was no friend of Chile as Gonzalo Jara’s penalty struck the post and bounced away.
As the Chilean players slumped in exhaustion and despair, the country of Brazil let out a huge sigh of relief and celebrated as if they had won the World Cup. This had been some game and some test of nerve, even as a supposed neutral I was drained, but understood once again why I love the game.
Hopefully providing more drama to come are the following fixtures:
Netherlands v Mexico
Only four international fixtures between these two teams, with Mexico yet to register a win. They were in the same Group at the 1998 World Cup in France, and both team qualified after a 2-2 draw. The Dutch were seemingly cruising after twenty minutes when two goals up from Cocu and Ronald de Boer, but Mexico hit back with two goals in the last fifteen minutes from Ricardo Pelaez and Luis Hernandez. Both teams emerged from their groups in Brazil unbeaten, but something has to give today. Netherlands to continue their 100% record in this World Cup.
Costa Rica v Greece
These two have never met in an international fixture, so what a time to play each other with a Quarter-Final spot up for grabs. Before the tournament Costa Rica were viewed as the team likely to finish bottom of the group containing England, Italy and Uruguay but instead finished unbeaten. Greece meanwhile just continue to find ways to win games and progress in competitions – England take note. This time having not scored in their two opening fixtures, they managed two when it counted most and it was enough to clinch the runners-up spot. It might not be pretty, but it works for them. And that will worry Costa Rica as they know the Greeks will be hard to break down. Will this be a victory for flair or attrition?