From Ground Zero: Brazil survive Chile, set quarter-final date with Colombia

Zee Media Bureau/Shobhan Saxena from Belo Horizonte

Two hundred million Brazilians missed a heartbeat on Saturday afternoon as their football team moved into the quarter-finals after a nerve stealing 3-2 penalty shootout win over Chile at Estadio Mineirao here. Brazilian goalkeeper Julio Cesar saved Mauricio Pinilla and Alexis Sanchez`s attempts, while Gonzalo Jara`s shot hit the post after the pre quarter-final had been locked at 1-1 after extra time. For Brazil, David Luiz, Marcelo and Neymar were the scorers, while Willian and Hulk missed out in the penalty shootout.

Declared “Man of the Match”, Cesar became an instant hero across the country, with people posting his photos on social network sites.

After opening the scoring with David Luiz in the first half, Brazil allowed Chile to level the score 1-1 after a sloppy throw-in by Marcelo. The score remained tied at 1-1 until the end of normal time and also during the extra time. In the last minute of play, Chile gave a serious scare to Brazil, but the ball hit the crossbar. In the shootout, however, Julio Cesar got two penalties saved and saw one hitting the crossbar. "Julio Cesar stopped the mouths of many people,” Neymar said after the game, in clear reference to all the criticism of the Brazilian goalkeeper being “over the hill.”

Neymar, who was responsible for the final penalty kick for Brazil, does not usually come under pressure on the pitch in any situation. But on Saturday even he felt the pressure. “It was a difficult time," he said after the match.

During the game, Neymar suffered a blow to the right thigh and had to be attended by the team physician. As a result, he could not make much movements in the second half. "In the final minutes, it was really tough for me," the player said.

Despite fears about serious injury to the player, the team doctor Jose Luiz Runco, dismissed any concern. "He took a [knock on the thigh]. It’s nothing. It’ll be no problem for the quarter-final," he said.

Chile, which were trying to reach the quarter-finals for the first time since hosting the tournament in 1962, could have won the match in the last minute of extra-time but Pinilla`s shot missed the target. Chile were knocked out by Brazil at the same stage in their last two World Cup appearances in 1998 and 2010.

In the second game of the day, played at the Maracana in Rio, with two goals from James Rodríguez, Colombia beat Uruguay by 2-0. They will now face Brazil in the quarter-finals of the World Cup. The game will be played on Friday in Fortaleza. Brazil and Colombia have never met in World Cup history.

James Rodríguez, one of the stars of the Colombian team in this competition, scored the goals in the 27th minute and 49th minute to become the top scorer of the World Cup with five goals. The midfielder left behind Neymar and Messi, both with four goals each so far.

With Uruguay feeling the absence of their star striker Luis Suárez, suspended because of biting Italy`s Giorgio Chiellini, the team hardly posed any threat to Colombia in the first half.

After the game, the hero of Colombian team, James Rodriguez, said he is living a "dream" and that Brazil has to be aware of them. "We will play without pressure. We have to go carefully because Brazil is a great team with great players. But they must also be aware of our team. It’s going to be a beautiful game," James said.

"I`m very happy. We are making history. It`s a dream. But we want to do more," added Rodriguez. The Colombian also thanked the Uruguayan coach, Oscar Tabarez, who called him "the best player in the World Cup" so far. "We are proud to know that he said that. Just want to help Colombia to get as far as possible."

It will be a cracker of match between Brazil and Colombia on July 4.