Monday, 28 June 2010

Brazil Too Strong For Brave Chile

Chile 0 Brazil 3, Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg

There was to be no dream win for Chile against the might and class of Brazil in Johannesburg. They huffed and puffed, passed the ball around attractively but when it came to finding that killer final ball, they were found wanting. There was simply no way through this extremely well-organised Brazilian defence.

When it comes to the business end of a World Cup, history often proves to be an impossible opponent to overcome. So it was for Bielsa and his eleven man in sparkling white. That's not to say that Chile can't be rightfully proud of this campaign. The true spirit of the game runs through every one of the players. Maybe at times naive but they have always tried to play the game in the right fashion and have never resorted to negative tactics.

The players came out to a deafening atmosphere in a packed Ellis Park Stadium with the vuvuzelas at full throttle. The flags were brought out, cameras flashed excitedly and the anthems were sung with gusto.

The Chile anthem talks of the 'refuge against oppression'. But they could find no refuge against the oppression of the men in yellow who bided their time and instinctively sensed the moments to put their foot on the accelerator and power to victory.

As has been typical in this tournament, Chile started brightly and with confidence. The ball was being fizzed around the midfield with Sanchez and Beausejour always willing recipients. 'Chupete' Sauzo had indeed been recalled and he looked sharp and strong, holding the ball up well and always looking to thread a pass.

The first sight of goal came for Brazil though. Fabiano was released down the right but his weak shot was dragged well wide. Then Gilberto Silva produced a stinging shot from the edge of the area that Bravo had to tip round the post.

After that bright Chilean opening, Brazil were suddenly looking dangerous. Bielsa could only assume his customary crouched position on the touchline and pray that his team could create some opportunities as his team were leaving Kaka and his gang oceans of room to play in.

The first chance for Chile fell to Suazo. Put through by a drilled pass from Sanchez, he controlled the ball instantly and if his shot had more elevation it would have sailed over Julio Cesar. It didn't and Cesar saved with ease.

Chile were often guilty of over-elaboration in the final third, failing to spot the easy pass that would see their flying wingers in behind the Brazilian defence. The patience in their build-up was admirable but sometimes a more direct approach might have been the order of the day.

Chile were lucky not to concede a penalty when Lucio's legs were taken away from him in the box and then to add insult to injury for Brazil, Kaka was booked for a similar challenge at the other end. Outside the area but his name was duly in the book as his disciplinary problems continued.

Just after the half an hour mark the opening goal came. Juan leapt superbly from a corner to unleash an unstoppable header over Bravo's head. From a Chilean point of view it was disappointing to give away a free header so early on and to gift the first score.

Chile's answer was to bomb forward in search of the equaliser. But again they failed to spot the space on the right and the over-lapping full-back was well out of position. Brazil didn't need a second invitation to counter and a wonderfully quick break saw the ball eventually come to Kaka. His defence-splitting pass was inch perfect and Fabiano rounded the keeper for his third goal of the tournament. 2-0 and a mountain to climb for La Roja.

Is attack the best form of defence? Only if you have the cutting edge to make and take your chances. This was starting to look like suicide for Chile and they were in danger of being picked off with every Brazilian attack.

The interval arrived. Did Bielsa have any words of inspiration at half-time? He obviously felt the need to introduce fresh legs, throwing Valdivia and Tello into the fray. The second period began well for his men. Again they stroked the ball around purposefully but that final pass was never forthcoming.

Then came the killer blow and it was stunning in its simplicity. Ramires streaked through the middle as defenders backed off him and fed Robinho who produced a lovely cool finish into the corner without seeming to break stride. The unlikely task had swiftly become the impossible job.

Chile continued to push for a consolation goal to end the campaign on a high but every time they reached a promising position there was a wall of yellow jerseys to block their path. Valdivia volleyed jut over the bar, Sauzo turned smartly in the area and forced a save from Julio Cesar but Dunga's men didn't appear overly concerned.

The game was in the bag and Brazil could afford to take the pace out of the game and attack when the mood took them. It did when Robinho found himself in acres of room on the right but he shot from a tight angle when he could have squared the ball.
Dunga was already thinking of the quarter-final against the Netherlands, taking off his three attacking stars, Fabiano, Kaka and Robinho.

A looping shot from Chupete hit the bar, Valdivia tried his luck from range but the sun was setting on Chile's World Cup dream. The goal wouldn't come, despite Bielsa's unwavering intensity on the touchline.

There were tears in the eyes of players at the final whistle but when the dust settles they will look back on the 2010 South Africa World Cup with satisfaction...and maybe with just a little thought of 'what might have been'.

For Chile the game is is up, but with three teams in the quarter-finals and Paraguay possibly to follow, make no mistake, South America is still dreaming.

How they lined up

Chile: Bravo (Captain), Fuentes (Yellow card), Isla (Rodrigo Millar, 62 Yellow card), Contreras (Tello, 46), Jara, Carmona, Vidal (Yellow card), Gonzalez (Valdivia, 46), Sanchez, Suazo, Beausejour

Brazil: Julio Cesar, Maicon, Lucio (Captain), Juan, Bastos, Daniel, Silva, Kaka (Yellow card, Kleberson, 81, Ramires (Yellow card), Fabiano (Nilmar, 76), Robinho (Gilberto, 85)

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