Luck plays a huge part in any sport but Brazil would be feeling pretty blessed after winning the game against Chile. In the dying minutes of the second half of extra-time, Chilean forward Pinilla smashed a shot into the crossbar, Julio Cesar was well beaten but the fates intervened to keep Brazil in the match and in the World Cup.
Then again, in the penalty shootout, with the score at 3-2, Chile's Jara hit the post even as Cesar was once again... well beaten. The crowd willed on the players but for much of the match, the Brazilian players were a deflated lot.
After the game, Brazil coach Felipe Scolari said: "Let's see if we can make fewer mistakes in the next matches. Perhaps next time we won't be as lucky."
This game was a warning for Brazil. Except for the game against Cameroon, Brazil haven't been very convincing; certainly not in the manner of future world champions and the kind of intensity on display won't be enough to beat a James Rodriguez-inspired Colombia in the quarter-finals.
Even in defeat, there are several lessons handed out by the Chileans to the home side and prime among them was to play to your strengths. Now, Brazil's strengths might not be very obvious but they are clearly better going forward than they are while defending. Chile, however, managed to reduced the flying wing backs Marcelo and Dani Alves to non-issues during the game.
The width in Brazil's attack comes as a direct result of the runs made from the deep by both these players. But if you can take them out -- then Brazil are forced to come through the middle and easier to counter. Brazil's predicament was a direct result of Chile's high pressing game which gave the hosts no breathing space whatsoever. There was always a Chilean player charging in at the player with the ball -- they gave Scolari's men no time on the ball at all.
In essence, it also told Brazil what they need to work on ahead of the next game. For Brazil, Marcelo and Alves have to be involved -- they can get cowed down so easily.
For Brazil, this World Cup has been all about Neymar. And if he has a bad game as he did last night -- it reflects on the performance of the entire team. The Chileans went hard at him, roughed him up a little and he never quite recovered. During the game, he had just 2 successful take-ons in 9 attempts. For a player, whose strength is dribbling and movement -- Neymar has to do more. He has carried this team so far and it's hard to really be critical of him but Brazil need him more than ever now.
Fred cannot play and neither can Jo. And Hulk is a liability too. For a team that had produced some of the world's best strikers, this must be hard to digest.
Fred is the only central striker to have scored for Brazil so far. Neymar has four of the team's eight goals, with Luiz, Oscar and Fernandinho getting the others. Hulk's error in the first half led to the Brazil equaliser even as the defenders looked on in shock. Scolari does have the option of going in for Bernard but so far he has preferred the bigger men. Maybe the show against Chile will change his outlook.
But more than anything else, Brazil need to pass better. Their passing percentage in the game was a dismal 90 percent. According to BBC, that was their worst passing percentage in a game since 1966. Chile defended very well but if that is how you will pass, then you will need a lot of luck to win games. Oscar had a great first game but he hasn't been as effective after that. He needs to take more responsibility in this area; he needs to be the playmaker that Brazil so badly needs.
Defensively, Brazil need to mark their opponents deep in their own half. They did that during the Confederations Cup but have just stopped doing it now. Chile did that all game and the pressure started telling on the Brazilians after a while.
And finally, Chile played in the fearless manner that they had promised on the eve of the game. They put life and limb on the line. In the words of midfielder Arturo Vidal, Chile "fought for a dream. We left our lives on the pitch."
Brave words. True words. Chile had absolutely nothing left in the tank at the end, they were running on empty.
That is precisely the approach Brazil need to take as well. There can be no show boating. There can be no laziness. Brave Chile have shown Brazil the way forward but can Scolari and his men learn their lessons in time for the game against Colombia? Only time will tell.
For now, they can savour a victory and perhaps, gracefully, doff their hats to lady luck as well.
Updated Date: Jun 29, 2014 20:35:33 IST