Brazil are often championed as the guardians of the 'beautiful game'. This is broadly for two reasons. The first is simple, they have won most World Cups. But it is the second that is more relevant; they tend to play the game on impulse, making it appear effortless. However, a combination of a more industrial than flamboyant squad – particularly in midfield – and the incessant and incredible pressure that they are under has made this Brazil side a little less Brazilian. Step forth Colombia. The joy with which they celebrate each goal coupled with their lucid brand of football makes them the people’s choice. The locals will have to put aside the admiration that has grown for their South American cousins when the two sides meet on Friday.
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Brazil need to improve – and fast
Brazil swept all before them as they cantered to the Confederations Cup in 2013 – and, in doing so, intensified the pressure to claim a sixth World Cup trophy. However, they have, thus far, flattered to deceive. There is, of course, an argument that they are growing into the tournament but if they do not improve against Colombia then they will almost certainly be eliminated.
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Chile could not have lasted the course
While Chile have quite rightly been lauded for their effervescent approach to this World Cup, it would have been practically impossible for them to sustain their unique brand of pressing football for the course of the tournament. After 120 minutes of exhaustive football against Brazil they would have surely struggled to recover for a quarter-final against Colombia. Therefore, Brazil’s progression is the good of the tournament.
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Neymar’s presence belies his youth
It is often easy to forget that Neymar is 22. The abandon with which he plays the game makes it also rather easy to forget the intense pressure on him to lead this Brazil side to another world title. It is to his immense credit that he is yet to falter, with his penalty against Chile another manifestation of his ability to embrace that pressure.
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Suarez did Uruguay a double disservice
Luis Suarez’s bite cost Uruguay dear. They lost their best player but that was only half of it; they then spent the build-up to their crunch clash against Colombia defending the indefensible. They looked a spent force at the Maracana – the last few days will have been emotionally taxing for the Uruguayan camp but they, unfortunately, brought that upon themselves.
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Cavani, while not a leader, remains a supreme striker
A cursory glance at Twitter would lead you to believe that Edinson Cavani is a spent force. Granted he has not illuminated this World Cup for a man of his talent but he remains one of the world’s most lethal marksmen. What has this tournament revealed about him? That he, unlike his striking cohort Suarez, is not a leader. He can fit into a system and provide goals but if the system is “broken” – or, in other words, if he does not have players of his calibre in and around him – then he struggles to make a mark. Give him a chance though and he will, nine times out of ten, bury it.
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A brutal way to separate teams
Yes, there is no alternative – particularly at a World Cup – but penalties are a truly brutal way to separate teams. Even more so when the hopes of a whole nation are at stake. Penalties do not discriminate – it does not matter how well a team have played in the proceeding 120 minutes. Some say it adds to the tension but the losing team almost always feel a sense of injustice.
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