First two days of knock-out phase saw enthralling football in Brazil’s World Cup cities of Belo Horizonte, Rio de Janeiro, Fortaleza and Recife. In Saturday’s first match, Brazil were seriously challenged by Chile and the score remained 1-1 even after extra time. Later, Julio Cesar excelled in penalty shoot-out to lend a lucky victory to Brazil. In the next match, Colombia beat Uruguay, thanks to a masterly display by James Rodriquez, who has now scored in each of his four appearances so far. On Sunday, Holland trailed 0-1 until the end, but scraped narrowly with an unexpected victory in last 100 seconds of the game. Sunday’s second match between Costa Rica and Greece also went to the penalty shoot-out but Costa Rica shot well to enter the quarterfinals.
Brazil squeezed through against Chile on Saturday largely because of the uncanny display of their goalkeeper, Julio Cesar for his astonishing saves in the second half, when Chile dominated play and also for his brilliance in saving the first two penalty strikes from Chile. Mineirao Stadium was a sea of yellow with Brazilian supporters donning shirts of their team’s color but the crescendo of noise and patriotic fervor was not enough for Brazil. Before the Chilean onslaught in the second half, David Luiz scored in 18th minute from an in-swinging corner taken by Neymar. In most part of the first half, Brazil attacked Chile and Neymar almost made it 2-0 in 26th minute as he rushed into the box but shot wide in the end. Chile got their equalizer in 32nd minute through Eduardo Vargas, who took the ball from Brazilian defenders and passed it to the unmarked Alexis Sanchez for shooting accurately into the goal. The first half ended with goal-scoring efforts from both sides going in vain. Chile played mostly in Brazilian half and would have gone ahead but Cesar made some absolutely stunning saves. In 54th minute, Brazil was disappointed, when the referee disallowed a goal after Hulk used his lower shoulder to send the ball in. On the other side, many of Chile’s pinpoint attacks were thwarted by amazing reflex actions from Cesar. After the 30-minute extra time produced no result, it was time for the penalty shoot-out.
Cesar shocked Chile by saving Mauricio Pinilla’s shot and soon David Luiz put Brazil 1-0 ahead. Later, there was high drama, when Cesar blocked Alexis Sanchez’s shot and Willian and Hulk missed for Brazil. With Marcelo and Neymar scoring from their chances, it was 3-2 for Brazil. When Gonzalo Jara placed the ball on the spot, he didn’t know he would be the Chilean villiain but his shot crashed against the post and Brazil went through.
Afterwards in Maracana, Uruguay played Colombia, for whom the 22-year old James Rodriguez was the true star, scoring both goals to take Colombia into the quarters. The first goal made for a breathtaking sight in 28th minute. As play switched between flanks, both teams looked for scoring opportunities. Colombia got it first with a headed cross from Uruguay’s Maximiliano Pereira coming to Rodrigues. Better known by his first name all over Colombia, James took the ball on his chest and produced a thundering volley from 20 yards. The ball dipped over Fernando Muslera’s outstretched hand, before striking the crossbar and bouncing into the goal. The second goal in 52nd minute was a team effort as Pablo Armero sent a curling cross to Juan Cuadrado on the far post, who headed it to Rodriguez for a superb finish. Uruguay attacked too, but without Suarez, they lacked “teeth.” Colombia sailed through the quarterfinals as the worthy entrants. James is now the top scorer in the tournament with five goals, the earlier three of which came from his first three league games.
In Sunday’s first match, Holland had luck on their side as they trailed 0-1 until the 88th minute but produced two goals in 100 seconds to break many a Mexican hearts. After the goalless first half, Mexico went ahead in 48th minute, when Giovani dos Santos struck firmly from 25 yards and despite Netherlands pushing hard for the equalizer it didn’t come until late in the game. Two minutes from close, Wesley Sneijder’s thumping volley made it 1-1. Fate further beckoned Holland in injury time with the referee awarding a controversial penalty to the Dutch and Huntelaar converting from the spot. In the end, it was a disappointing loss for Mexico.
Sunday’s second match at Recife was played between Greece and Costa Rica. Playing a superior game to the Greeks, Costa Rica went ahead in the 52nd minute, when Campbell rolled a pass to Bryan Ruiz near the box and Ruiz curled the shot into the goal with ease. Costa Rica continued the lead until an injury time goal by Sokratis Papastathopoulos took the match into extra time at 1-1. But match had to be decided on penalty shoot-out since 30-minute’s extra time produced no goals. Costa Rican goalkeeper Navas made some spectacular saves before Michael Umana sent the last penalty kick to clinch a 5-3 shootout victory for Costa Rica.
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