- Fortune favours the brave in the knockout matches so far
- Chile never truly believed they could beat Brazil
- Mexico threw away their chances by being negative
- Holland are now genuine contenders
Up to now, knockout matches have been won by the more talented squads. For all the talk of Chile’s attractive style, there was a grim inevitability about their defeat to Brazil. Similarly, despite the climatic advantage enjoyed by Mexico, Holland pulled their game out of the fire – even if they were helped by the negativity of the Mexican coach, Herrera – largely because they had match-winners to call upon in their time of need. Uruguay, shorn of Suarez, were beaten by the brilliance of James Rodriguez. All of which means we are in for a tremendous fortnight of football as the tournament reaches its denouement.
In Belo Horizonte, Chile performed as well as they have against Brazil since their legendary 1987 Copa America clash in Cordoba. The Chileans won 4-0 that day – sending Brazil crashing out – but have rarely troubled their illustrious rivals since – and certainly not in Brazil. On Saturday, Chile faced up to the yellow shirt – perhaps more so than this observer gave them credit for in advance – but still failed to take that jump from gallant losers to conquering heroes. The margins were fine – the width of the woodwork – but the Chileans missed three out of five penalties against a team in emotional meltdown. They can have little complaint.
A propensity to overplay when in shooting position plagued Chile’s game when Brazil were there for the taking. They lacked direction and resolve. For my money, the better team came through in the end – albeit unconvincingly. Colombia, for all of their exuberance, are unlikely to close the hosts down as well as Chile did. As a result, Brazil remain hot favourites for the semi-finals.
That may seem a harsh judgement on James Rodriguez and his team-mates, but Colombia have had a relatively soft path to the last eight. Emerging from a weak group, – Ivory Coast, Japan, and Greece are no world beaters – they then beat a weakened, embattled Uruguay. While Luis Suarez has nobody but himself to blame for his absence, Uruguay were inevitably weakened by not only his loss, but by the storm that surrounded their camp in the run up to the game. While much of it was self-inflicted, it’s hard to escape the feeling that things couldn’t have been better prepared for the Colombians.
Still, Jose Pekerman’s men got the job done. While many felt a siege mentality would help the Uruguayans, Colombia brushed off whatever resistance they encountered and won comfortably enough in the end. Uruguay fought bravely to the end – as is their calling card – but Rodriguez settled this affair with his unique brand of magic.
On Sunday, Holland impressed by sheer force of will once Mexico opted for negativity in replacing Giovanni Dos Santos with a more defensive midfield player. That was the moment when they let the Dutch off the hook. After that, the Dutch seized the initiative handed to them and made Mexico pay. They look set fair for the semi-finals now and will be a serious threat to everyone in their, weaker, half of the draw.