This was not the type of game that many of the supporters or the broadcasters had wanted to see. It was a remarkably unfriendly friendly; a tight, tense game, littered with fouls of a type never usually seen in a match which counts for nothing.
Anyone hoping it would be the perfect platform for Neymar and Alexis Sanchez to exhibit their talents, to entertain and impress with their prodigious technical skill, will have gone home disappointed yesterday afternoon.
What they witnessed instead, in their national colours in a full Emirates Stadium, was a proper contest. This was an intense, physical, attritional game, decided by one goal on the break, from Brazil substitute Roberto Firmino, with 17 minutes left. Even before then, there were hardly any chances at either end, with each side more focused on stopping the other through any means available.
For both sides, this was more than just an exhibition game, it was a chance to move beyond the disappointments of recent years and assert themselves, with the Copa America to come – in Chile – in June. These two teams met at the last two World Cups: they played out an exhausting 1-1 draw in the last 16 in Belo Horizonte last year, which Brazil won on penalties. Four years before that, at the same stage, Brazil won 3-0.
The last time Chile beat Brazil was back in 1993 and Jorge Sampaoli’s side went into this game desperate to overturn that record. The team he picked for last week’s friendly against Iran proved that, because here, against better opposition, Chile were at full strength. They did not even make a substitution until just 12 minutes before the end.
Chile played with all the speed, courage and strength which have made them so compelling at the last two World Cups. But before they could play their own game – as they did in the second half – first they had to stop Brazil.
Miiko Albornoz set the tone by fouling Neymar twice in the first few minutes, for which he was booked. Rodrigo Millar was next, going through the back of the man whose every touch brought screams from the crowd. Then it was the turn of Gary Medel, who brought down Neymar and stamped on his calf, with referee Martin Atkinson unsighted. Arturo Vidal got a powerful foul of his own in on Neymar who, just before the interval, was booked for taking out his frustration on Gonzalo Jara.
It was not appealing but it was certainly effective. Neymar was reduced by the sustained assault and, if there was any suggestion that Chile might ease off in the second half, it evaporated when Mauricio Isla wiped out the Barcelona forward two minutes after the restart.
Brazil gave almost as good as they got – this was not a small, weak or flimsy team – but their manager Dunga did joke afterwards that his players did not get much protection from the referee. Having won the physical battle, Chile started to play their best football in the second half. They could have had two penalties, after Fernandinho fouled Pablo Hernandez and then Marcelo tripped Isla.
The game was in the balance and, hard as Chile worked, they did not quite have the quality in the final third to decide it. Brazil did. Danilo played a pass through from right-back, Willian’s diagonal run caused mayhem and Roberto Firmino, on as a substitute, skipped away from goalkeeper Claudio Bravo and finished with two sharp touches.
For Dunga’s developing Brazil side, still recovering from last year’s trauma of losing 7-1 in the World Cup semi-final to Germany, it was the perfect ending.
“I am very happy with the players’ reaction after the World Cup,” Dunga said. “They know their responsibility, and are trying to change what happened.”
Brazil (4-4-1-1) Jefferson; Danilo, Miranda, Thiago Silva, Marcelo (Filipe Luis, 75); Costa (Willian, 62), Fernandinho, Souza (Elias, 60), Coutinho (Robinho, 60); Neymar; Luiz Adriano (Firmino, 60).
Chile (3-5-2) Bravo; Albornoz, Medel, Jara; Isla, Aranguiz, Vidal (Vargas, 80), Millar (Fernandez, 78), Mena (Gonzalez, 83); Sanchez, Hernandez.
Referee M Atkinson (England).Reuse content