The best World Cup in recent memory provided another scintillating affair between two South American powerhouses, Brazil faced Colombia in the quarterfinals, one team just managed to scrape through to this round while the other had easily dispatched a Luis Suarez-less Uruguay team. The match was built up around the two number 10’s, Neymar and James Rodriguez, one was going to be in the headlines for sure, quiet how one ended up on the pitch screaming in agony at the end of the game is something to dwell upon. Brazil started like a house on fire and took the lead when Thiago Silva bundled in a corner from Neymar in the 7th minute. They then started battering the Colombian goal and also James Rodriguez. David Luiz scored an exceptional free kick (Juninho style) in the 68th minute, that finally got the Colombians to react and they won a penalty in the 80th minute which Rodriguez converted but Brazil held on to take them to the semi-finals where they face Germany.
Here are the 5 talking points from Brazil vs Colombia.
Neymar out, who will come in?
Late into the game, you could hear the scream of one player and the entire stadium held its breath in anticipation that he would rise and continue playing. Juan Zuniga had barged into Neymar and his knee had connected with Neymar’s back, the striker fell and had to be carried away on a stretcher. It has been confirmed that Neymar has broken a vertebrae in his back and will be out for 4 weeks, missing the remainder of the tournament. Without Neymar, the Brazilian attack looks as brilliant as cheap fireworks which don’t go off. The three stooges Hulk, Jo and Fred will have to play their socks off if they are to help Brazil lift the trophy.
Fast start by the Brazilians
Everyone expected Colombia to start the game better, at least from an attacking point of view, however we got to see what Brazil can do when they are in the mood, buoyed on by the home crowd. Brazil constantly attacked the weaker Colombian defense and it just was not Neymar who was causing problems, during the first 30 minutes Brazil were doing all the right things. Even Hulk performed like a professional football player and not like a Sunday league footballer. That start and the early goal gave them the confidence to carry on and control most of the game.
Hack a James
There is this tactic in basketball of fouling a player who cannot shoot free throws, it started with Shaquille O’Neal, the Los Angeles Lakers center, and “Hack a Shaq” was coined. Brazil used that tactic to great effect with their constant fouling of James Rodriguez. The star performer of this World Cup was targeted from the start and it seemed that Fernandinho had the task of battering the young playmaker. He was completely kicked out of the game, especially in the first half and that affected his performance on the field as well. It is also a mystery as to how Fernandinho escaped getting a yellow card in the game.
Too much, too young, too fast
This Colombia side, managed by Jose Pekerman had wowed us during the early stages of the tournament. Even without their main striker Radamel Falcao, they have been a joy to watch. The core of this new Colombian team still has time to grow, Rodriguez, Cuardado and Martinez will all learn from the experience of playing at this stage. Ultimately, nerves got the best of the Colombian team. This will be a great learning experience for them to come back stronger in Russia 2018.
The business end of the tournament
Everyone expected the Brazilian team to kick into their fast, beautiful football sometime in the tournament. While they have flattered to deceive during most parts of the tournament, we finally saw a glimpse of what they can do at the start of the game. The first 30 minutes was all Brazil, while Scolari ensured that James Rodriguez was constantly hounded and close down by as many players to stop his influence in the game. Scolari could throw a joker in the pack and ruffle the Germans, this has been a crazy and brilliant World Cup and you never know what can happen.