Story of the half: Brazil had struggled coming into this match, failing to live up to their designation as tournament favorites.
That didn’t apply today. On the heels of a chill-inducing a cappella national anthem, the hosts burst out of the gates into a blistering start. They pressured the Colombian defense plenty, and earned a goal inside the opening 10 minutes.
Thiago Silva bagged his first international goal on home soil by scoring a sixth-minute tap-in on a corner, and a sloppy Colombia had little response.
Brazil used a hard, physical strategy to keep Colombian superstar James Rodriguez down, and with much of the possession the hosts had most of the chances on goal.
Tactics then went out the window around the 20th minute, as players just flew forward and back without any direction or instruction, the game exploding open on both ends and providing confusing yet entertaining play. Defenders took goal kicks, referees let everything go, players shot from every place on the pitch, and pigs flew over the stadium…you get the picture.
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7′ – The first real chance fell to Brazil, who started bright, and they cashed in. Fernandinho released Neymar with a great through ball, and it earned Brazil a corner. Neymar’s ball flew in long to the back post over everyone jumping to connect, but Thiago Silva made a run to the back post, beating converted an easy tap-in.
Other key moments:
11′ – Colombia nearly had their response to the early goal. Brazil failed to clear an attack, and Juan Cuadrado picked up a loose ball at the top of the box. He dribbled into space and lashed a shot to the near post, but it went just wide of the post.
17′ – A defensive mistake leads to a chance for Hulk, but he was marshalled wide enough that his shot had no angle on goal and it ended up cleared without harm.
20′ – Again Brazil pummeled Colombia’s goal. A one-two between Neymar and Hulk released the striker, but again his shot came from a tight angle. The rebound fell to Oscar outside the box and he sent home a piledriver destined for the top corner, but a diving save from David Ospina ended the threat.
25′ – A weird moment saw James Rodriguez called for a foul, and the players got into it a bit. While the referee tried to break up the kerfuffle, Brazil decided to take the quick free kick, and the referee somehow allowed it, leading to numbers for Brazil, but it came to nothing.
38′ – The referee came into question again when a Colombian free kick at the edge of the box resulted in nothing because Neymar and Thiago Silva quite clearly broke the wall and charged the ball before it was kicked, but the referee let it go.
Brazil – Julio Cesar, T. Silva, Luiz, Maicon, Marcelo; Fernandinho, Paulinho, Oscar; Fred, Neymar, Hulk.
Goals: Silva 7′
Colombia – Ospina; Zuñiga, Zapata, Yepes, Armero; Sanchez, Rodriguez, Cuadrado, Guarin, Ibarbo; Gutierrez.
Thiago Silva – Not only did he score Brazil’s goal, but he was a rock at the back, locking down Colombia’s attack in the few moments they had opportunities. He had seven clearances, five more than any other Brazilian, a pair of blocks, and distributed 16 passes out of the back, failing with just two.
Pablo Armero – Colombia tried hard to thread the ball down the left flank, with little success. Armero was the main component in that attempt, but struggled mightily. He gave away three of his 10 pass attempts, threw four of nine throw-ins away, and completed just one of his three crosses.
Fernandinho – The lock to Brazil’s defensive door, Fernandinho served his purpose well. Moving back into Luiz Gustavo’s normal holding midfielder role with the starter’s yellow card suspension, Fernandinho was superb at halting Colombia’s attempts forward and instantly converting them into Brazilian counter-attacks.
Numbers to know:
6 – players for Brazil with at least 15 completed passes. Colombia has one.
2 – blocks for Thiago Silva. All other 21 outfield players have two combined (one by Neymar on that ridiculous 38th-minute free kick).
38% – The amount of possession Colombia had in the first half, completing just 75% of their passes.
Questions for the second half:
Can Colombia defend with offense? Pinned back and forced to defend much of the first half, the Colombians had precious few chances on the attack despite their usual attacking flair.
Will Brazil continue to push forward or sit back? We’ve seen plenty of teams take a one-goal lead and shut up shop this World Cup, with mixed results. It would behoove Luis Felipe Scolari to continue his assault on the Colombian goal, but it will be very tempting to pull off one of his strikers for another midfielder. It could come back to haunt him if he does allow Colombia more chances on net.