A South American side finally went out of the World Cup last night but only at the hands of another. Chile were the unfortunates who ran into a Brazilian team approaching the heights of which they are clearly capable, for all the grumbling about compromises made to the beautiful game. Juan, Luis Fabiano and the reformed misfit formerly known as Manchester City's Robinho, all scored well-taken goals and their side will now play Holland in Port Elizabeth on Friday in what is potentially one of the games of the tournament. Should they come through it, football lovers could be licking lips at the prospect of a final against either Argentina or Spain.
There could even be an English team involved on the big day. Referee Howard Webb and his two assistants, Darren Cann and Mike Mullarkey, did well again and must be under consideration.
Brazil's coach, Dunga, suggested in his downbeat manner that Holland were "an extremely able team, difficult to play against, their football similar to a South American team". That should clearly be regarded as a compliment in itself. He was equally generous towards Chile while expressing satisfaction at his own team's ability to "maintain control and play open football that everyone wants to see".
As to the burden of being World Cup favourites – the odds shortened again last night – he added: "We know there's always expectation that Brazil will be winners. The confidence is growing game by game so we hope to be able to reach the final."
Impressive as Chile have been with their positive approach and footballing values, Brazil were the last opponents they wanted to meet, history weighing heavily upon the smaller country. This was their eighth successive defeat in the head-to-head series, conceding 29 goals in the process; hardly an encouraging record to carry into the tie. A sense of inferiority would have been understandable, bearing in mind that they were also missing three players through suspension: Waldo Ponce, Gary Medel and Marco Estrada.
The former pair being centre-halves, there was anxiety about how their replacements Pablo Contreras and West Bromwich Albion's Gonzalo Jara would cope against an attack fortified by the return of Robinho and Kaka, alongside and just behind Fabiano respectively. Chile had a torrid time, Brazil scoring twice in quick succession before half-time, although only after the underdogs had wagged their tails with some vigour. Playing only three men at the back, and three up front, they used the midfielder Carlos Carmona to man-mark Kaka and pushed forward whenever possible, without creating chances until it was too late to matter.
Webb made an early impression, turning down Lucio's appeals for a penalty after the captain went down under a challenge from Contreras, and then rightly booking Kaka for a trip. The saintly Brazilian, who managed to get himself sent off in his previous game, looked aggrieved. So did Maicon after throwing himself to the ground without receiving a free-kick but he could easily have been booked for simulation,
Soon Maicon and his countrymen were all smiles. The right-back won a corner and swung it over for the central defender Juan to leap highest among a pack of yellow shirts and head past Claudio Bravo.
The celebrations in the Brazilian dugout were delirious and four minutes later were repeated after a break-out reminiscent of Germany against England the previous day. From Robinho down the left the ball was switched rapidly inside to Kaka, making three attackers against three defenders, then forward to Fabiano, who was correctly given onside. He rounded the goalkeeper before tapping in his third goal of the competition.
So what would normally have been a Chilean huddle before leaving the pitch had the look of a post-mortem. Two substitutions at the interval suggested that their coach, Marcelo Bielsa, was despondent too. Jara switched to a more central defensive position and Mark Gonzalez, the least effective of the three front players, was replaced.
The changes had little effect and by the time Bielsa made a third, bringing on Rodrigo Millar for Mauricio Isla, Brazil had another goal. Ramires, replacing the injured Felipe Melo as Gilberto Silva's midfield partner, surged forward and played in Robinho for a cool finish. Booked later, he will miss the quarter-final.
Chile, to their credit, continued to pass and move, forcing Julio Cesar to make his first save from a clever turn by the bald little striker Humberto Suazo, whose next attempt clipped the bar. At the other end, however, Bravo foiled Robinho, who almost immediately had a goal ruled out – a correct decision again – by Webb's team.
Brazil (4-3-1-2): Julio Cesar; Maicon, Lucio, Juan, Bastos; Dani Alves, Gilberto Silva, Ramires; Kaka (Kleberson, 81); Luis Fabiano (Nilmar, 76), Robinho (Melo, 85).
Chile (3-4-3): Bravo; Jara, Fuentes, Contreras (Tello, h-t); Isla (Millar, 62), Vidal, Carmona, Beausejour; Sanchez, Suazo, Gonzalez (Valdivia, h-t).
Referee H Webb (England).