RIO DE JANEIRO: Brazil survived a huge scare to edge past Chile into the World Cup quarterfinals on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) as Colombia’s James Rodriguez produced a wonder-goal to help send Uruguay packing.
A titanic second-round battle in Belo Horizonte saw Brazil beat Chile 3-2 on penalties after the South American rivals finished extra time locked at 1-1.
Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar was the hero, saving twice in a nerve-shredding shoot-out before Chile defender Gonzalo Jara’s final spot-kick struck the post to hand the hosts victory.
The penalty drama unfolded after a pulsating game at the Mineirao Stadium which saw Chile almost snatch victory in the closing minutes of extra-time when substitute Mauricio Pinilla’s shot crashed back off the woodwork.
“If you don’t exploit the few opportunities you get, you can go out,” relieved Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said afterwards.
“We almost paid the price in the 118th minute when the ball hit the bar.”
Brazil, roared on by their partisan support, started strongly, taking the lead through a goal credited to David Luiz after 18 minutes.
Neymar swung a corner in from the left and the Paris Saint-Germain defender rose to turn the ball into the net.
But Chile came back and equalised after 32 minutes, Barcelona star Alexis Sanchez punishing slack play in the penalty area to slot past Cesar.
In the shoot-out, both teams missed spot-kicks to leave Neymar as Brazil’s fifth and final penalty-taker.
The Brazilian poster-boy duly tucked away his penalty to make it 3-2 and when Jara missed, the hosts celebrated.
“He is 22 but he plays as if he were 35,” purred Scolari when asked about Neymar’s pressure spot-kick.
“He handles the pressure naturally. He is so strong mentally and you could see even when we was 17 or 18 that he was ready.”