Brazil have again prevailed on penalties to reach the FIFA U-20 World Cup semi-finals after a 0-0 draw with Portugal at Hamilton's Waikato Stadium. Rogerio Micale's side can count themselves hugely fortunate, although their European opponents have no-one to blame but themselves for the outcome, with dreadful misses - both throughout the match and in the shootout - leading to defeat in a match they dominated.
Helio Sousa had tweaked his system to adopt a seemingly more defensive approach but, whatever the intention, it was Portugal who spent the early stages very much on the front foot. Their first chance came in just two minutes when Joao Nunes tested keeper Jean from a long throw, while Gelson Martins headed wastefully over from a terrific Rony Lopes cross soon after.
Martins had been the hero against New Zealand in the last 16 and he almost made immediate amends for his miss in 14 minutes, providing an inswinging cross that should have doubled as an assist for Andre Silva. But while the striker ghosted in behind his marker to meet the ball right in the centre of the six yard box, he somehow contrived to direct his header wide of the left-hand post.
It was only through good fortune and poor finishing that Brazil did not find themselves behind at this stage but, as the half wore on, they steadily improved. Captain Danilo even had the ball in the net after 22 minutes but his powerful header was ruled out for pushing inside the Portuguese box.
In truth, this meeting of two of the tournament's most exciting and potent sides failed to live up to expectations, with much of the second half best described as forgettable. What few chances there were fell to Portugal, with the Europeans again left to curse their own profligate finishing. Martins was the main danger man and he twice caused havoc, first with a driven cross that Silva headed wide and then with a shot from an acute angle that was well kept out by Jean.
Brazil were riding their luck by this stage and never more so than when Rony Lopes came within a whisker of scoring with six minutes remaining. Silva had set up the chance with a clever pass inside, and while Lopes did everything right - swivelling smartly and crashing in a fine left-foot shot - the ball rebounded to safety off the inside of the far post.
Generally, though, Portugal were their own worst enemies, with Lopes missing another gilt-edged chance five minutes into extra time. His run to spring Brazil's offside trap was perfectly judged, as was Raphael Guzzo's lofted through ball, but the No10's header was not, with the ball somehow directed wide when a goal seemed inevitable. And Sousa's team continued to fluff their lines at the crucial moments, with Martins racing clean through on to a pass from Lopes only to shoot wide of the right-hand post when he had time to pick his spot.
That left penalties to settle the outcome and, like the match itself, the shootout was defined by wayward Portuguese shooting. They looked to have the initiative after Brazil's Lucao was the first to miss, but subsequent failures from Andre Silva, Nuno Santos and a calamitous Panenka attempt by Raphael Guzzo left the South Americans to look forward to a last-four meeting with either Senegal or Uzbekistan.