Cool Neymar leads Brazil into quarter-finals
ROUND OF 16
(David Luiz 18)
(Alexis Sanchez 32)
- After extra time, Brazil win 3-2 on penalties.
Never doubt Neymar.
His body may be taking a pounding, his shoulders may be strained from the burden of carrying a nation's hopes, but this is a young man with just as much composure and courage as any of the legends who have worn his famous shirt.
After 120 minutes of an exhilarating, gruelling and utterly draining stalemate, he stepped up to take Brazil's final penalty. And he scored.
Brazil came within inches of leaving the World Cup early.
With seconds left before the penalty shootout, Mauricio Pinilla smashed a shot against the crossbar, leaving the woodwork vibrating and a nation clutching their hearts.
Inevitably, with football's cruel sense of irony, Pinilla would go on to miss his own spot-kick.
Chile were incredible.
They worked so hard, they fought until their creaking bodies began to give out under the strain. But it was all for nothing.
They leave this tournament with the consolation prize of hearts and minds around the world. They were the neutrals' favourite and you can expect their techniques to be imitated widely.
The game began at breathtaking pace and then only intensified.
Chile knew that they had to be hard, fast and ruthless and they swarmed on Brazil like wasps at a picnic.
Neymar took the brunt of the punishment, wiped out by Charles Aranguiz in the fourth minute and repeatedly targeted henceforth.
The Brazilian bench was infuriated, the medical team were forced to douse Neymar's knee in iced water in an effort to keep any swelling to a minimum.
But, while the Chilean defence initially struggled to keep up with him, his influence waned in the second half.
Perhaps Chile thought they had neutralised him. They would have been wrong.
Just as he did in the brutal 2010 final, referee Howard Webb did his best to keep the game flowing, booking only three Chileans when he could have taken five or six of them.
He also had the courage of his convictions to ignore Hulk's appeal for a penalty in the 13th minute when the Zenit St Petersburg forward went down easily in the box, and then more controversially, to disallow Hulk's apparent goal after the break.
He was right on both counts. As it stands, he is England's best performer in this tournament, even if you won't find many in Brazil who agree.
Despite the Chilean aggression, it was Brazil who opened the scoring. Neymar's corner was nodded on by Thiago Silva and then sliced in by Gonzalo Jara, under pressure from David Luiz.
The hosts had chances to extend their lead, most notably when Neymar broke midway through the first half, leaving Francisco Silva trailing in his wake. The Brazilian golden boy dragged his shot wide.
Chile, naturally, were in no mood to capitulate and they struck back after half an hour, capitalising on a horrendous error by the Brazilian backline at their own throw-in.
Marcelo tossed the ball to Hulk but, when he tried to play it back to the Real Madrid man, he underhit the pass.
Eduardo Vargas pounced, teed up Alexis Sanchez and watched his teammate slide the ball delicately into the bottom corner.
Ten minutes after the break, Brazil thought that they'd taken the lead.
A long ball to Hulk was taken under control and bundled it into the net but, even as he celebrated in front of the supporters, Webb was striding over with a yellow card.
Hulk was adjudged to have used his arm to control the ball. The replays vindicated Webb, showing contact with the arm beneath the shoulder, but there were few in Belo Horizonte who cared to listen.
Webb further enraged the home fans shortly afterwards when he booked Luiz Gustavo, which rules him out for the quarter-finals.
Just after the hour, another disappointing performance saw Fred replaced by Jo and the former Manchester City striker should have won the game with 15 minutes to go.
But as he lunged for a low cross, Eugenio Mena somehow put his foot in the way and deflected the ball to safety.
Chile could have taken the lead themselves in the 63rd minute, Aranguiz's close range shot drawing an incredible reaction save from Julio Cesar.
But the game was destined for penalties. Luiz and Marcelo put Brazil two goals to the good, Aranguiz responded and, when Hulk's effort was saved by Claudio Bravo, Marcelo Diaz was able to drag Chile level.
That left Neymar with what was essentially a sudden-death final round of spot-kicks. His nerve held. Jara's did not. Brazil prevailed and Neymar came of age.
There are still three games left, but he is already a legend.