THE DAY REPLAYED – Some might say that the odds were stacked against Uruguay from the start. La Celeste have not won in Brazil for over 20 years and their entire population would fit in the metropolitan area of Belo Horizonte, the atmospheric venue for today’s semi-final. Their chances decreased still further when Fred put A Seleção ahead. In the 22 previous matches at the FIFA Confederations Cup when they opened the scoring, they are unbeaten, winning 20 and drawing two.
But those statistics do not tell the full story. Brazil did not have everything their own way during the 90 minutes. They came up against a hard-working, well-organised Uruguay side who pressed them as soon as they crossed the halfway line. Diego Godin and Diego Lugano were outstanding in defence and Luiz Felipe Scolari deserves credit for introducing Bernard and Hernanes during the second half. Their creativity gave the hosts an extra attacking impetus and the pressure finally told four minutes from time when Paulinho headed home Neymar’s excellent corner at the far post to send Brazil to their fifth FIFA Confederations Cup final.
What it means…
Brazil head home to Rio de Janeiro and the Maracana for Sunday’s final against Spain or Italy, while Uruguay will meet the losers of tomorrow’s match in Salvador, the venue of their 2-1 win over Nigeria. This will be the South Americans’ second match for third place in as many FIFA tournaments, after they played (and lost) the same fixture at the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ against Germany.
Goal of the day
It may have been a fortunate finish, as the forward himself admitted, but the build-up to Brazil’s opener was of the highest quality. Scolari’s side broke quickly and matchwinner Paulinho played a fantastic ball to Neymar in the box. Barcelona’s newest recruit brought the ball down superbly with his chest before clipping a right footed shot which Fernando Muslera saved. However, the Galatasaray goalkeeper could only parry the ball into the path of Fred who caught it on the half-volley with his shin, which spinned inside the side netting. The striker from the state of Minas Gerais received a rapturous ovation from his fellow Mineiros who saw him take his tally to seven in nine games under Felipão.
Stat of the day
80% – Four out of the last five penalties have been missed at the FIFA Confederations Cup. Fernando Torres hit the bar and went over against Tahiti; Javier Hernandez saw his penalty saved against Japan, as did Andres Scotti who missed on the same day against the Oceania champions. Abel Hernandez did score from the spot later in that game, but today’s Budweiser Man of the Match Julio Cesar kept out Diego Forlan’s penalty with a superb stop. The importance of that save was underlined by Oscar Tabarez in his post-match press conference: “I don’t like to talk about ifs and buts, but what I can say is that when we missed that penalty we gave Brazil the shot in the arm they’d been lacking up to that point.”
Quote of the day
“The match reminded me of the Woody Allen film Match Point, with the game hanging on which side of the net the ball would drop. [Edinson] Cavani had a chance at the end with Julio Cesar totally exposed, but it went wide, sealing our fate. If we’d scored, Brazil wouldn’t have had the time to react,” Oscar Tabarez, Uruguay coach
The action moves to Fortaleza tomorrow as world and European champions Spain take on Italy in a repeat of the UEFA EURO 2012 final. The big question is whether Gli Azzurri can defeat their old rivals. Spain have been outstanding in possession during this tournament, but gave away chances against Nigeria. However, Cesare Prandelli will be without in-form forward Mario Balotelli who has returned home after suffering a thigh injury against Brazil. Can Alberto Gilardino step-up and become a hero?
Tweet of the day
— Joseph S Blatter (@SeppBlatter) June 26, 2013