Brazil took revenge for their loss to close neighbours Colombia in the South American qualifying tournament with a 0-2 semi-final win on a frigid afternoon in Tampere’s Ratina stadium. With a goal in each half of the all-South American clash, Abuda skilfully guided the Auriverde to a deserved place in Saturday’s Final.
Intent on picking up where they left off against the United States, Brazil roared forward in the early going against their South American neighbours. But it was Colombia that got the first real chance when the always-dangerous Adrian Gustavo Ramos raced into the box on the end of a wonderful 30-yard ball from young midfield maestro Jose Otalvaro. Although Brazilian keeper Bruno was hardly troubled by the forward’s inaccurate strike, it was an early warning shot from the underdogs to their fancied opponents.
And again, just three minutes later, Ramos nearly took advantage of a scramble on the Brazilian doorstep. But Bruno bravely sacrificed his body to keep the Auriverde out of harm’s way.
The normally irresistible Brazilians were looking rusty and out of form, but just as they did early in the second half against the USA, struck a crushing blow against the run of play on the quarter-hour mark. Abuda climbed brilliantly in the Colombian box to nod home an inch-perfect cross from Jonathan. (0-1, 15’)
Finally into their proper rhythm and controlling possession, the Brazilians looked their old selves again.
But nine minutes from the interval, Otalvaro and roving left back Pablo Armero combined well to give the unimpressed Colombians their best chance of the match. After a well-worked give-and-go, Armero burst clean into the area only to be denied at the last by Bruno – once again off his line like a snap to preserve the slim lead.
Brazil emerged from the locker room in an attacking mood. Ten minutes in, Evandro burst past two Colombian defenders in a glorious sweeping move. But after squaring the ball perfectly to Abuda on the right, the striker could only smash his shot off the crossbar.
Never overawed, the Colombians continued to press forward with Ramos and Otalvaro leading the charge in an increasingly end-to-end affair.
But Brazil put the match out of reach in the 72nd minute. The effervescent Evandro raced forward on the counterattack, waiting for the perfect moment to tap the ball left to the rampant Abuda. Although Libis Arenas got a hand to it, the ball was always headed for the back of the net. (0-2, 72’)
espite some spirited play and a mean-looking volley from captain Fredy Guarin in the dying moments, the Colombians’ finals fantasy finally came to an end at the hands of a familiar foe.
“I was just happy to help my team get to the Final,” said two-goal hero Abuda after shedding joyful tears on his knees following the final whistle. “Now I hope I can help again and we can become world champions on Saturday... this team is a family.”
The post-match press conference was a study in contrasts. Colombian coach Eduardo Lara’s red eyes told a sad tale of so-close-yet-so-far, while Brazilian boss Paqueta did his best to respectfully control his obvious euphoria.
“We played against a great team today,” said the inimitably classy Lara. “It means a great deal for our country that we reached the last four... and we are proud to have lost to a team as great as Brazil.”
Paqueta – celebrating his birthday in style - remained dignified and took time to pay tribute to a fine rival.
“Colombia are always a ferocious opponent... they always attack, and we have great respect for them,” he said. “Tonight we will celebrate our victory... and tomorrow we will worry about who me meet in the Final.”
The meaningful embrace between the two coaches after the press conference spoke volumes of the tremendous respect on display all day long.