BY DARREN GOON Follow on Twitter
|MAN OF THE MATCH
Brazil 2-1 Colombia
As Brazil faced their South American rivals for a spot in the semis, many billed it as the clash between the “Number 10s”, Neymar and James Rodriguez, but it was to be two central defenders who secured safe passage for the Seleção.
While captain Thiago Silva completed the most blocks and clearances, he also received a silly yellow card for a needless challenge on David Ospina, ruling himself out of Brazil’s next game. As such, David Luiz is Goal’s Man of the Match for a solid defensive display (including the most interceptions and more clearances than anyone but Silva) and that magnificent goal, topped off with some good old-fashioned niceness.
Silva opened the scoring in the 7th minute, and his goal was helped by David Luiz’s positioning. He drew both Colombian central defenders, Yepes and Zapata, to him at the near post but the ball sailed over their heads, leaving Silva the relatively easier task of getting past Carlos Sanchez to tap the ball home at the far post.
During breaks of play, David Luiz could be seen egging on an already-fervent crowd, whipping them into a frenzy to urge his team on. They needed no more encouragement than his exciting, slaloming solo run through the Colombian defence midway through the second half that would be expected of a footballer once described by Gary Neville as “being controlled by a 10-year-old on a Playstation”.
Colombia had a goal disallowed for offside, and Brazil’s one-goal lead looked fragile. But then they won a free-kick outside the box. David Luiz stepped up and welted it with the instep of his foot from 35 yards, the ball swerved and dipped into the top right corner in a blink, and the world’s most expensive footballer set off on a victory run before a sea of yellow.
It was Brazil’s first shot of the second half, after hitting 11 in the first period. David Luiz also became the first Brazilian to score a direct free-kick at the World Cup since Ronaldinho’s infamous goal against England in 2002.
Although James Rodriguez reduced the deficit with a penalty in the 80th minute for his sixth of the tournament, Brazil held on to win 2-1 and reach the semis for the first time in twelve years.
As players applauded the fans, James stood in the middle of the Estádio Castelão’s pitch, tears in his eyes. David Luiz approached, gave him a hug, and pointed at him, signaling to the crowd to applaud one of the players of the tournament. He’s a terrific football player, but an even better human being.