FT: Uruguay 2-2 Brazil (Brazil win 5-4 on penalties)
It was semi-final heartbreak for brave Uruguay as Brazil won a penalty shoot-out to end an absorbing semi-final in Maracaibo tonight.
Uruguay were themselves one sudden death penalty away from Sunday’s game but the excellent Pablo García hit the post, one of several players to rattle the woodwork during the shootout.
Gilberto put his away and then Uruguay’s captain Lugano shot weakly straight at Doni to deny La Celeste what would have been a famous victory. The match ended with both squads squaring up to each other as Uruguay correctly pointed out that Doni was well off his line. Ironically for Uruguay it was two of their most influential players whose penalties left most to be desired – like Lugano’s, Diego Forlán’s was weak and straight enough to aid a first Doni save.
That Uruguay brought the tie to penalties was the result of their famous garra. They came out for the second half 2-1 down after a brave first-half fightback following an early Maicon goal was undone by a vicious in-swinging free kick from the full back that deceived the Uruguay defence and was put away by Julio Baptista.
In between the Brazilian goals Diego Forlán had lashed in a fisted Doni clearance during a period of sustained pressure orchestrated by Recoba.
Injury forced Recoba off at half-time and Uruguay clearly lacked his skill to turn possession into chances as they launched their second fightback. But they kept probing a Brazil who seemed content to defend in numbers, protect their lead and look for something on the break.
In place of Recoba it fell to Cristian Rodriguez and Forlán to try and break down the massed Brazilian ranks and it was a chance by Forlán, put away by Abreu that finally brought the sides level.
Too late Dunga started throwing on attacking players in Diego and Afonso, but still with a hint of caution – making way were Vagner Love and Julio Baptista. It was no last ditch all out assault.
So it went to penalties and Uruguay will feel wretched at having come so close only to fail at the last. What they have achieved is to bury the embarrassing memory of the group stages with two performances in the knock-out stages of guts and no little skill that bode well for the World Cup qualifiers later this year.
Brazil meanwhile are in the final but they can count themselves lucky that they were not made to pay for Dunga’s decision to spend nearly all the second half protecting their one goal lead. Brazil might be used to finals, but rarely will they have reached one playing such conservative football.