HOSTS Brazil await either Spain or Italy in the final of the Confederations Cup after Luiz Felipe Scolari’s men beat Uruguay 2-1 last night in the first semi-final.
Scorers: Brazil - Fred (42), Paulinho (86); Uruguay - Cavani (48)
Referee: Enrique Osses (Chile)
Brazil performed way below their best in a scrappy first half but they took the lead on 42 minutes when Fred bundled the ball into the net. A long pass over the top had found Neymar breaking into the box, and the new Barcelona recruit took it on his chest wonderfully before seeing his shot well saved by Fernando Muslera. Fred latched on to the loose ball and fired into the net despite the attentions of two Uruguay defenders.
Uruguay – who had earlier squandered a glorious opportunity to take the lead when Diego Forlan missed a 14th-minute penalty – were on level terms three minutes after the break. A sloppy Brazilian defence had two or three chances to clear their lines, but captain Thiago Silva tried to play a square pass to left-back Marcelo and Edinson Cavani nipped in and stole possession, before scuffing a shot into the corner.
The match seemed destined to head into extra time but Brazil nicked a winner out of nothing five minutes from time. Neymar whipped in a corner to the back post and Paulinho jumped highest at the back post to nod the ball home.
Scolari’s men survived some late pressure as the clock ticked down but held on to set up a meeting on Sunday night with either Spain or Italy. The European giants meet in the second semi-final this evening. The build-up to last night’s match had been dominated by a row over Neymar, with Brazil defending their star striker against accusations of diving. They claimed Uruguay’s attempts to discredit him ahead of the semi-final were a transparent attempt to influence the referee.
Uruguay defender and captain Diego Lugano said Neymar was “very apt at pretending to be fouled” and warned that this should be watched closely.
Lugano’s comments drew an angry response from the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF), who issued an official statement just a few hours before the match.
“What (Diego) Lugano is trying to do when he talks about Neymar is pressure the referee into not punishing the tough tackles that he will doubtlessly make on the Brazilian player,” the CBF said. “When he questions Neymar’s behaviour on the field, Lugano makes the huge mistake of a purported analyst by calling into question something that no football fan would dare to doubt, the talent of Brazil’s No 10.”
The CBF also pointed out that Neymar had scored in each of Brazil’s three games thus far and was elected as Man of the Match in all of those games by fans who voted in an online poll.
Brazil: Julio Cesar, Dani Alves, Thiago Silva, Luiz, Marcelo, Oscar, Gustavo, Paulinho, Fred, Hulk, Neymar. Subs: Jefferson, Fernando, Lucas Moura, Hernanes, Dante, Filipe Luis, Jean, Rever, Bernard, Jo, Jadson, Cavalieri.
Uruguay: Muslera, Lugano, Godin, Caceres, Maxi Pereira, Rodriguez, Arevalo Rios, Gonzalez, Forlan, Suarez, Cavani. Subs: Castillo, Coates, Gargano, Pereira, Eguren, Hernandez, Aguirregaray, Lodeiro, Perez, Ramirez, Silva.