The Result Is King - A New Brazilian Template

After a pulsating, absorbing match Brazil have made it through to the semi-finals. It may not have been pretty, but there should be no marks awarded for aesthetics...

Last Updated: 05/07/14 at 08:37 Post Comment

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The sun may still rise over Copacabana beach if and when Brazil are eliminated from this World Cup, but there will be a communal sense that things will never again be as wonderful. On Friday night the country's players proved themselves worthy holders of the responsibility in prolonging such a dream. It has been a rocky road but Brazil march on - they are now just one more victory away from the Maracana, and the chance to redress the nightmare of the 1950 Maracanazo.

This was 90 minutes to assault each and every one of your senses. It may not have been a victory in the style for which Brazil has been famed, but in truth that died as normality a long time ago. This is a country that won World Cups in 1994 and 2002 with grit, guts and raw passion - against Colombia all three were required in spades.

It is a sugary cliché, but this was a match in which there deserved to be no losers. The first half was as close as is conceivable to footballing nirvana, an atmosphere made almost impossibly fervent by the a capella renditions of the anthems, before being whipped up further into a frenzy by a game played at an unprecedented pace.. At times it felt as if footballing style was being reinvented as central defenders sprinted sixty yards with the ball, defenders took goal kicks, players shot from distance and the referee struggled to gain any semblance of control.

This was South American football, nay any football at its enthralling, brilliant best, a match stuck in the sixth gear of all-out-attack, with defending as limp as wet cardboard left out in a thunderstorm. There were evident mistakes and imperfections, but these only seemed to fuel the feeling that we were watching something unique.

We waited just seven minutes for the opening goal, nudged home from a corner by Brazil's captain Thiago Silva. Silva received a great deal of criticism following the Chile tie for watching the penalties away from his team-mates, seemingly overcome with the emotion and magnitude of the situation. This was his almost instant redemption, the beating of chest as he wheeled away his method of demonstrating just how strong a leader he could be. He was the first Brazilian captain to score in a World Cup since Rai in 1994, and will hope to follow in Rai's footsteps all the way to lifting the trophy next Sunday.

Importantly for Brazil and Luiz Felipe Scolari, the midfield performed at a far higher level than previously over the last three weeks. In the absence of the suspended Luis Gustavo, Paulinho was restored to the starting line-up but selected in a more reserved role alongside Fernandinho - both were utterly brilliant in both fire-fighting and destroying.

At the centre of Paulinho and Fernandinho's fine work was Carlos Velasco Carballo, the Spanish referee whose leniency became almost comical. When Thiago Silva was booked for blocking David Ospina's kick from hands, Carballo issued the first yellow card for the 41st foul of the match, a World Cup record. Brazil committed a total of 31 fouls in the match, a striking statistic, with Fernandinho incredibly fortunate to not see yellow.

However, the outrage over such physicality must be muted slightly. Brazil may draw censure for their rough housing, but this isn't an unusual occurrence in South American football. Interestingly, when pushed for an answer after the match, Colombia coach Jose Pekerman refused to criticise Brazil for their approach. Instead, the Argentinean admitted that there was a "friction" to the match, but described it as "the same for both teams".

I am inclined to agree, and whilst there appears to be something of a witch hunt for the conspiracy theorists that believe FIFA are somehow colluding to ease Brazil's passage, such talk is nonsense. Colombia committed 23 fouls themselves, with Neymar in particular receiving some harsh treatment. The news that he will miss the rest of tournament with a broken vertebrae will be mourned across this football-obsessed country.

Thankfully (and typical of the spectacle), just as the game threatened to spill into the niggly and scrappy, a moment of genius wrestled it back into the mesmeric. If you were choosing one player in this World Cup to epitomise the unpredictability and excitement of this tournament it would be David Luiz - this is the poster boy of football irregularity. His free kick was majestic, soaring above the bar before dipping into the top corner of Ospina's goal. Even by the standards set by the first half, it took your breath away - unless you are Brazilian, in which case that breath was exhaled in relief.

A final (and deserved) word too for James Rodriguez, the undoubted surprise star of this World Cup. He was kicked enough times during the match for he himself to be left unsure whether he was James or Ham-es, but the midfielder simply picked himself back up time and time again, desperate to further continue his distinction.

Rodriguez will be sore in the morning, both physically and mentally, but should be immensely proud of his achievements. His late penalty made him the second youngest player to score six goals at a World Cup - only Pele beats him to that. It seems an odd statement to make about a player already the subject of a £35million move, but a star has been born.

There seems a strange obsession with discrediting the achievements of this Brazil side, but the fact remains that despite the intense pressure upon them to win this tournament, they are in the semi-finals. We were told that Chile were the answer, but Brazil sent them home. We were told that Colombia were the answer, and Brazil have beaten them too. This is a side that just keeps on keeping on.

This may not be the Selecao of 1970, but perhaps they are simply victims of comparison to those that have gone before. It might not be jogo bonito, but maybe we have become more obsessed with that ideal than the Brazilians themselves. Find a local in Rio de Janeiro this evening and ask them if they care about the how or the why. You'll probably have to stop them dancing first.

Daniel Storey - Follow him on Twitter

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