Friday, in Fortaleza, Brazil, host-team defender David Luiz scored a stunning thirty-five yard folha seca free kick to defeat Colombia 2-1 and put Brazil into a World Cup semifinal match against clear favorites Germany. But at the 87th minute Neymar, whose previous knee and thigh injuries made him a question mark for today’s match, was kneed in the lower back by Juan Zuniga and could not move on the pitch lying there until he was stretchered away. At game’s end no update on his condition was available.
Tonight, the host team came out on fire against their South American rivals and managed to score a corner kick goal off Silva’s thigh-knee for the game’s opening score at the seventh minute.
The game degenerated from there. It became a choppy foul-riddled first half that should have ended with a half-dozen yellow cards per team, with Brazil’s Fernandinho having earned at least two on his own.
Several nice plays did occur and Hulk alone missed three sure goals from about 8-10 yards from goal. Some nice plays for Colombia also took place but the final shot would go wide or would be blocked by a hyper active quartet of Marcelo, Maicon, David Luis, and Thiago Silva. Brazil’s Julio Cesar did not need to make a serious save all half long, while Colombia’s David Ospina had several, including a few off Hulk that were point blank.
The first half ended, mercifully, without an actual fight but not because Spanish referee Carlos Velasco Carballo did his job, he did not. This was the worst officiated game of the tournament, so far, and that is saying a lot in a cup that has been run by poor refs from day one.
The second half saw Colombia, the better team on the pitch, exert their play and dominate possession and opportunities including scoring a goal which was called back for an obvious off sides. But just as that dominance was beginning to pay dividends, in terms of the quality of those chances, Brazil got a free kick, at the 68th minute, directly in front of Colombia's goal and about thirty-five yards out. For once it was not Neymar but Luiz who stepped up. His dipper, known as a dry leaf (folha seca in Portuguese) left goalkeeper Ospina without a prayer despite his dive, which got a couple of fingers on the ball. Golazo! The best free kick of the tournament.
But Colombia’s upswing went unabated and was not to be denied. At the 80th minute Brazilian keeper, Cesar, brought down Carlos Bacca who had been played into the box and placed one-on-one with Cesar by a great James Rodriguez pass. The goalie tripped up the striker and got a yellow card and a penalty for his trouble. Rodriguez stepped up and coolly placed the ball to the left side of the goal as Cesar dove to the opposite side. Brazil 2, Colombia 1.
With ten minutes left Brazil desperately defended and was lucky not to have any one of three Colombian chances tie the game. When the final whistle finally blew, Rodriguez broke down in tears and was comforted by none other than Dani Alves who was on the pitch celebrating with his teammates. Later, Marcelo and Luiz came up to the Colombian and also tried to console him, the winning goal scorer exchanging jerseys and telling Rodriguez to keep his chin up.
The game was not pretty and Brazil was hardly a worthy victor. Despite the result, Colombia was the better team and had a better ref officiated who knows how many players might have been left on the pitch to contest the game. But Luiz’s great goal at least gave the host crowd a reason to hope if not a reason to forget just how poorly their team played tonight. Brazil’s next match, against Germany, will be played without captain Silva who will be suspended due to accumulated yellows. If Neymar is also out due to injury what was already a difficult match against a much better German team just became a mission impossible.