A Pyrrhic victory

Brazil will also miss Thiago Silva in the semi-final against Germany who was booked for a second time.

Neymar was airlifted from the Brazilian team's training camp and treated at home for his fractured vertebrae. He will miss the remainder of the tournament. (Source: AP) Neymar was airlifted from the Brazilian team's training camp and treated at home for his fractured vertebrae. He will miss the remainder of the tournament. (Source: AP)
Written by Aditya Iyer | Fortaleza | Updated: July 6, 2014 3:05 pm

Logic, quite like the magnets of a compass, moves counter-clockwise in the southern hemisphere. Just below the equator lies Fortaleza, where a central defender had given Brazil the lead in the seventh minute.

And then, exactly an hour later, Colombia’s best striker had just curtailed an opposition attack into his territory with a sliding challenge that any defender would have been proud of.

Only, James Rodriguez — who was kicked, bruised and battered all evening — was shown a yellow card for his tackle on Hulk. Wronged, James protested, just as his captain Mario Yepes had done a minute earlier, when his equalising goal was disallowed.

But just like Yepes’s pleas, James’s too were to no avail. Spanish referee Carlos Carballo had long pulled out his vanishing spray and had begun marking the free-kick region, roughly 35 yards away from goal.

On it stood David Luiz, Brazil’s wig-haired defender. A decent distance away, David Ospina, Colombia’s goalkeeper, barked instructions as the defence built its wall.

Construction ended to the right of the ball and Ospina took his place to its left. The resistance looked sturdy and pierce-proof.

Logic and school-level geometry should tell you that unless curved around the linked bodies, the ball stood no chance of entering Ospina’s goal.

Yet, straight as an arrow, Luiz cannoned his kick past the shoulder of the right edge of the wall and into the top right — giving a flat-footed Ospina no chance. “It’s genetic,” Luiz said later. “My legs were born this way. Maybe it’s magic.”

Call it magic or whatever else you may please, but the truth remains that Brazil’s two central defenders have scored all of Selecao’s goals in the knock-outs.

Luiz had found Brazil’s only open-play goal against Chile in their Round of 16 match last week. And now, he had joined his backline partner and captain Thiago Silva on this scoresheet. It was bound to impact their already choppy and paper-thin defensive play.

Just 10 or so minutes after Luiz’s goal, Julio Cesar was alone forced to double up as both Brazil’s last and second last lines of defence. When Carlos Bacca was set free into a near vacant box by James, Cesar rushed howling out, tackling Bacca to the ground with a body checking kick.

In any other game, this would have been a straight red. But with the lenient Carballo around, Cesar got away with a yellow. And James, this World Cup’s leading goal-scorer, pulled away from his nearest competitors with his sixth goal of the edition.


That goal wasn’t enough to stop Brazil from proceeding to the semi-finals, but they only barely managed to limp across the line-literally and figuratively.

Luiz …continued »

First Published on: July 6, 2014 12:57 amSingle Page Format
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