Brazil vs Colombia comment World Cup 2014: Fernandinho shows Luiz Felipe Scolari’s tougher side

Brazil scrapped and kicked their way through to the semi-finals

It was tense, difficult and never especially pleasant but Brazil, playing their own unbeautiful game, scrapped and kicked their way into the semi-final last night.

It was Colombia, not the feted hosts, who came to the game with more artistic intention and creative quality, and Brazil knew that their best option was not to out-play them but to spoil, and let the emotion and momentum carry them through.

Luiz Felipe Scolari, who has never been embarrassed about that side of the game, knew they would need a way to stop James Rodriguez, the player of the tournament so far and the one Colombian capable of hurting them single-handedly. Their task was made easier by the hesitancy of referee Carlos Velasco Carballo to enforce the laws.

It might just have been that he was as carried away by the atmosphere as anyone else, but Carballo was remarkably liberal when it came to Brazil’s rudimentary treatment of James. Brazil quickly sensed this and no one took up the invitation with more enthusiasm than Fernandinho.

Brought into the squad just before the World Cup, and into the starting XI for the last-16 game against Chile, Fernandinho has settled in instantly, embracing the high-tempo, no-apologies game demanded by Scolari. In the first half, he was ferocious, bounding around the pitch, charging into tackles and moving the ball forward quickly whenever he won it.


Fernandinho set the tempo in the opening minutes, running into Rodriguez at top speed and upending the precocious little No 10. Carballo did not seem to mind, so next times James had the ball he harassed him around the ankles, prompting a flickering of handbags in the centre-circle. He managed one more kick, for good measure, before the first half was up.

It was almost a modern-day equivalent of Nobby Stiles on Eusebio. It was not pretty and it should not have been legal. Fernandinho was penalised for a high foot on Victor Ibarbo but was otherwise allowed to do as he saw fit.

Colombia’s success in their first four games had owed almost everything to Rodriguez, the creative heart of their 4-2-3-1 system, and even under attack he still managed a few glimpses of quality. There was one shimmering run through the middle, which ended with Juan Cuadrado, found on the outside, hitting his pass at Thiago Silva.

Rodriguez was more dangerous early on in the second half, aided by the introduction of Adrian Ramos, starting to find some more space before Brazil’s second goal from David Luiz.

It came, unfortunately enough for Rodriguez, when he fouled Hulk 25 yards from his own goal. He was obviously and understandably infuriated when Carballo finally found his yellow card, which had somehow evaded Fernandinho, for the tackle. When Luiz found the top corner, the frustration bubbled over.

Rodriguez would not give up, kept on prompting his team forward and scored a nerveless penalty, setting up a final 20 minutes in which Brazil needed all their reserves of grit, strength and spirit.

Colombia, whose bravery and imagination never wilted, were running into Brazil’s walls of muscle, in defence and midfield, and were simply buffeted back. It is easy to think from our vantage point that Neymar, with his delicate touch and burst of pace, is a typical Brazilian footballer. But in South America their reputation is different, and it is the imposing, athletic types – Luiz, Fernandinho, Thiago and Hulk – who better resemble the Brazilian approach.

Last night, Colombia were battered and bruised by Brazil’s brusque approach. It was not beautiful but Scolari never said it would be. He wants to win his second World Cup; now he is two games away.