Brazil secured a World Cup semi-final against Germany with victory over Colombia on a night of gripping tension and passion in Fortaleza.
Captain Thiago Silva set Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side on the way with an early goal, and Brazil looked to be set for a comfortable passage into the last four after David Luiz’s brilliant second-half free-kick. In a magnificent atmosphere built on a cascade of colour and a wall of sound, new World Cup star James Rodriguez set up a thrilling finale when he pulled a goal back from the penalty spot with 10 minutes left.
In a frantic closing phase, Colombia were unable to force the chance that could have brought extra time, and it is the hosts who will meet Germany in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday, a game which will be live on BBC One. But Brazil will be without superstar and main striking hope Neymar, who has been ruled out of the World Cup with a fractured vertebra after being kneed in the back by Juan Zuniga.
They will also be missing captain Thiago Silva, who is suspended after being booked. Colombia had complaints of their own, chiefly the lack of protection offered to Rodriguez, who was on the receiving end of some fierce challenges as Brazil sought to nullify his influence. He broke down in tears at the final whistle as he was consoled by the Brazil players who had offered him none of that commodity during a harrowing physical ordeal which proved he has the courage to go with his natural ability.
Brazil and their supporters, in contrast, went wild with elation at the final whistle. The goal of reaching the final – and making up for the 1950 World Cup loss to Uruguay in Rio that is still one of this nation’s darkest sporting days – lives on. Germany, who beat France 1-0 in their quarter-final, will need to show mental strength to cope with the tidal wave of emotion and support that Scolari hopes will carry Brazil to the Maracana a week on Sunday. Fortaleza offered up a cauldron of noise and a sea of yellow shirts in an atmosphere that ensured Brazil would launch into a series of adrenalin-fuelled attacks.
Scolari’s hope was to push Colombia into unknown territory and the strategy was helped by a goal built largely on defensive carelessness after seven minutes. Neymar’s corner was a routine affair with little serious menace but it was allowed to drift to the far post, where Carlos Sanchez switched off to allow Silva to bundle home.