Chile face nemesis Brazil in World Cup knockout
By Andrew Cawthorne
World Cup favourites Brazil have rediscovered their swagger and boast a superb past record against Chile but go into Saturday’s do-or-die game knowing their rivals have enough attacking prowess to wreck the hosts’ party.
Seeking a sixth World Cup on home soil, Luiz Felipe Scolari’s men hit their stride in a 4-1 demolition of Cameroon that won them Group A and showed striker Neymar at his very best with two great goals and crowd-pleasing trickery on the ball.
Now facing Chile in the first game of the tournament’s knockout round, Brazil will be encouraged by recent history. They easily knocked out Chile at the same stage in the last two World Cups ‘La Roja’ (The Red) featured in, 1998 and 2010.
Brazil have in fact won nine of their last 10 meetings.
Yet this fast and attack-minded Chile side could be the best version yet, claiming one illustrious scalp already when they beat reigning champions Spain 2-0 en route to their own qualification behind the Netherlands in Group B.
The Brazil of their opening two group games, a win but an unconvincing one against Croatia and a draw against Mexico, have not struck fear into the Chileans.
“Brazil has often been Chile’s nemesis but football changes, new generations come and new players appear,” said midfielder Arturo Vidal, known to fans as ‘King Arthur’, who returns from a knee injury that kept him out of the match against the Dutch.
“We’ve beaten the world champions, so we can beat Brazil.”
For that to happen, strikers Eduardo Vargas and Alexis Sanchez will have to be at their cut-throat best as they were against both Spain and Australia whom they also beat, 3-1, before the Dutch got the better of them in the final group game.
Like other Latin American nations’ fans, Chileans have flooded Brazil in their tens of thousands and are dreaming of at least emulating their best ever showing of third in 1962.
They were knocked out then by, guess who, Brazil.
With both teams more comfortable in attack than defence, the match in Belo Horizonte’s Mineirao stadium could be a rip-roarer as they go straight for each other’s defensive weak points.
Political protests and worries over infrastructure have faded into the background now, so Brazilians are embracing the World Cup in the way foreigners assumed they would – with parties, fireworks and yellow national colours everywhere.
Even the normally staid state capital and business centre, Belo Horizonte, is turning ever more yellow in the run-up.
The team, who are confidently predicting World Cup glory, are likely to reshuffle a bit from the Cameroon game, with Fernandinho set to replace Paulinho from the start to give the midfield more thrust and fluidity in feeding Neymar and Hulk.
In advance of the game, Neymar has warned his defence to keep tricky Barcelona team mate Sanchez in their pockets.
“Alexis is a star,” he said. “I admire him a lot. He’s a great player and we need to be careful with him. We can’t leave him any space.”
Uruguay, minus Suarez, seek to stop flying Colombians
By William Schomberg
Uruguay must recover from the shock of losing star player Luis Suarez, who was kicked out of the World Cup for biting an opponent, if they are to stop high-scoring Colombia in an all-South American, second-round clash on Saturday.
Uruguay have long relied heavily on Suarez in attack and the controversial striker scored half of their four goals so far in the competition in Brazil.
He was thrown out of the World Cup on Thursday for biting Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini in a group match, dealing a huge setback to Uruguay, who battled their way to the semi-finals of the 2010 tournament in South Africa.
Colombia head to the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro in more buoyant mood, having won all three of their group games and racked up nine goals in the process, a tally surpassed so far only by the rampant Netherlands.
There had been fears that the loss of striker Radamel Falcao to injury before the tournament would be a big blow for Colombia, appearing at their first World Cup in 16 years.
But Falcao’s understudy Jackson Martinez has been one of the tournament’s revelations so far, helped in large part by playmaker James Rodriguez.
With those two in fine form, Colombia, under Argentine coach Jose Pekerman have wowed crowds in Brazil with the kind of fast, flowing play that the locals demand of their own team.
They have also entertained fans with their salsa-inspired goal celebrations.
A place in the quarter finals against either Brazil or Chile is at stake on Saturday and Uruguay will be seeking to channel the spirit of 1950 – when they shocked Brazil by beating them to win the World Cup in Rio.
It will probably fall to veteran striker Diego Forlan to take the place of Suarez in the starting 11 in the Maracana as he did in their shock opening loss to Costa Rica in Group D while Suarez was still completing his recovery from injury.
Uruguay played poorly in that match which they lost 3-1 but looked better in their next, a 2-1 win over England when Suarez scored both their goals.
After overcoming Italy 1-0 in the now infamous game in which Suarez lost his self-control, they must now cope without him again. Captain Diego Lugano vowed the team would not be distracted by his loss.
“Nothing will hold us back,” Lugano wrote on his Facebook page. “We will press on with humility, unity, determination, aware of the mistakes that have been made and with our heads always held high.”
With both teams likely to bring huge numbers of fans to the Rio on Saturday, security at the Maracana will be tight.
Around 200 Chilean fans stormed in for their team’s first-round match against Spain. A few days earlier, a handful of Argentine fans climbed over the Maracana’s perimeter fence.