BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil (AP) — Brazil is trying to regroup for the rest of the World Cup after narrowly avoiding a humiliating elimination from its home tournament.
The hosts needed a penalty shootout to beat Chile in a tense second-round match on Saturday, extending a run that could have ended just four matches into the competition.
After the final Chile penalty hit the post, Brazil players dropped to the ground, with many of them crying after coming so close to defeat in front of their fans.
Players and coaches didn’t hide their relief, but their focus has soon turned to the quarterfinal against Colombia on Friday in the northeastern city of Fortaleza. The aim now is to try to fix the mistakes that led to a disappointing performance in Belo Horizonte.
Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari admitted that Brazil will have to improve if it wants to reach the final at the Maracana stadium on July 13.
“We have to look at why we didn’t get better,” Scolari said. “Each match from now on will be more and more difficult. We have a good national team, we are not better or worse than any of the other teams that are still playing. We need to try to make fewer mistakes in the next matches. We may not be this lucky again.”
Brazil didn’t play well throughout the match at the Mineirao Stadium. It was never able to impose its game and didn’t capitalize on its few scoring chances. The hosts came close to defeat near the end of extra time, when Chile striker Mauricio Pinilla struck the bar.
“If you don’t take advantage of the opportunities that you have, you may end up paying a high price, and we almost had to pay that price with two minutes left,” Scolari said. “If you don’t score when you can, you end up being at risk.”
Brazil’s strikers have been ineffective for most of the tournament, with the exception of Neymar, but even he had a below-par performance on Saturday.
Brazil is yet to win at this World Cup when the Barcelona star fails to score. The defense also wasn’t at its best, giving up a lot of space to Chile.
Had Brazil been eliminated, it would have been its worst performance in World Cups since 1990, when it fell in the round of 16 to Argentina. The five-time champions have now reached the quarterfinals of the last six tournaments, winning two of them, in 1994 and 2002, and making it to the final once, in 1998. Brazil has been eliminated in the quarterfinals of the last two World Cups.
“We know we haven’t won anything yet,” said Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar, who made two penalty saves to lead his team to a 3-2 win in the shootout following a 1-1 draw. “But I think that winning a match like this gives us even more strength for the next phases of the competition.”
For Friday’s game against Colombia, Brazil will be without defensive midfielder Luiz Gustavo, who received his second yellow card against Chile.
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