2014 FIFA World Cup: What we learned, Day 16
A recap of Saturday at the World Cup, as Brazil moves through to the quarterfinals.
At the end of each day of action at the 2014 World Cup, our writers weigh in on what we learned from each match.
Brazil is beatable: This doesn't come as a major surprise on its face. Obviously Brazil, just like everyone else at the World Cup, can be beaten. It is, however, somewhat surprising just how close they came to losing Saturday to Chile. This is certainly no indictment of Chile, who was clearly a side capable of winning Saturday. Really, Chile should have won Saturday. I mean, they rang the post in the 120th minute. You don't get much closer than that.
But there is something to be said for Brazil's resilience in the face of adversity. They allowed few chances after the disaster that was the Alexis Sanchez goal, and basically had Chile back on its heels for the majority of the game. They couldn't scratch a goal across after David Luiz's, but their attacking prowess was evident. And when it was winning time, with the pressure of a nation on their shoulders, the Brazilians got it done in penalty kicks.
So that's good. But they'll probably want to slam the door a little sooner next time.
Defensive problems: Chile was content to sit back for the majority of the game and fend off the Brazil attack. But that doesn't mean that they didn't have chances of their own. The Brazil defense has been shaky throughout the tournament, and that was again the case Saturday. Chile's goal was the result of a Brazil giveaway in its own third, and there were various miscues that didn't help the Brazil cause.
Julio Cesar, perhaps the least-heralded player on the team, was solid in goal. So that's a bright spot. But again, Brazil hasn't faced a team with a truly powerful attack; it really looks as if -- despite the skill of Brazil's defensive players individually -- a France or Germany would eat this team up in that third.
What about Fred?: Brazil's lone forward has had a mostly forgettable World Cup experience, and that continued Saturday. Fred was on the other end of some solid plays, but he never managed to get even a decent shot on goal. He's one of Brazil's best weapons, but he just hasn't played to his ability in four games, scoring just once. He was taken off in the second half in favor of Jo, who was no better.
Obviously this is picking nits with a Brazil attack that is one of the world's most formidable, but, if nothing else, it can be much better.
Too much Neymar: Far be it from me to suggest that one of the world's best players is somehow at folly, but Neymar had a rough outing overall Saturday -- at least by his standards. Frankly, there could be something to the notion that he's expected, at least by himself, to do most everything on the attack. He's often in situations where he's surrounded by three or four defenders and he chooses to take them on rather than give up the ball. Of course, if anyone in the world can fend off a bevy of defenders, it's Neymar. But it may serve him and the team better to allow the involvement of Hulk, Oscar, and others.
The flip side is, as mentioned earlier, these other attackers may be relying on Neymar to do everything. Oscar was mostly a non-factor Saturday, like Fred. Hulk had some good runs and sent some good balls in, but Neymar can't be expected to carry this team to every win.
Then again, he narrowly missed on a couple chances, so if those go through Brazil wins 3-1 and I'm singing a different tune.
James Rodriguez is a star. Rodriguez came into this match having scored a goal in each of Colombia's three matches in group play, and he stepped his game up in the knockout rounds, scoring both of Colombia's goals in this match. He now has five in the tournament, more than any other player.
And it's not just scoring that the midfielder is capable of, as he's also added two assists. In other words, if you're an AS Monaco fan, I wouldn't expect to have Rodriguez back with the club next season. There's already been interest from Arsenal, and you have to think this World Cup display will only lead to interest from others as well.
Colombia is a very dangerous team. The Colombians had been one of the best teams in the tournament in group play, even without Falcao available to it, and that continued today. The Colombians have now scored more goals as a team than any other squad in the World Cup, and defensively it's only allowed two goals through four matches.
It's a strong team across the board, even if it doesn't contain a lot of household names.
Strong enough to beat Brazil? We'll all find out in the next round, but considering how underwhelming Brazil has looked at times in this tournament, it wouldn't be all that surprising to see the Colombians pull off an upset of the host nation in the quarterfinals.
Luis Suarez killed his team. This was the second of Uruguay's four matches that Luis Suarez wasn't able to play in, the first due to injury, and today due to his taste for human flesh. In those two matches without Suarez Uruguay has been outscored 5-1 with its only goal coming on a penalty kick from Edinson Cavani.
Which is why it's so strange to see this Uruguay team throw so much support behind Suarez in recent days. Yes, he's the best player on the team, but his inability to keep from biting opponents (seriously, how hard can it be not to bite your opponent!?) has ensured that Uruguay is leaving Brazil long before it had hoped to.
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