The favourites made it through, but it wasn't exactly easy. Brazil twice had to come from behind against Honduras in what was eventually a 3-2 win, and never looked anything like their brilliant best in reaching the quarterfinals. For some time, it looked as though Honduras would be able to repeat their giant killing against Spain, but a red card and a silly penalty allowed Brazil back into the game, and once they established a lead they were, barely, able to hang on.
Brazil had the best of the early exchanges, with Leandro Damiao flashing a shot past Jose Mendoza's left post and Neymar nearly managing to latch onto a lovely through ball from Oscar a few moments later. But the atmosphere around the match changed in an instant when Honduras took a shock lead in the twelfth minute.
Rafael da Silva was not enjoying his time at right back, and Sporting Kansas City midfielder Roger Espinoza was able to squeeze past him to knock in a cross. The cross wasn't great, and the ball popped up into the mixer only to be met by Mario Martinez. The midfielder's volley was subtle and sweet, arcing over Gabriel and dropping into the far corner to make it 1-0 Honduras.
Brazil responded by... sulking. Gone were the silky passages of play -- instead they gave us forced short passes, failing to take advantage of any of the opportunities that the Honduras defence presented. But a bizarre series of decisions by Wilmer Crisanto just after the half-hour mark gave the favourites a way back into the match. Shown a yellow card for a foul on Hulk, the defender responded by kicking out at Neymar all of thirty seconds later, and was rightly dismissed for his complete loss of discipline.
Honduras then presented Brazil with another gift, allowing Leandro Damiao to scramble home from very close range after completely failing to deal with a loose ball in the box. With the score level and Honduras down to ten, it looked as though they could be in a world of trouble, but just after halftime they managed to grab the lead again. Espinoza drove forward and let fly with a low shot from outside the box, and despite a dive from Gabriel it snuck inside the far post to give Honduras a 2-1 lead.
That lead lasted not long at all. Oscar and then Leandro Damiao went down in the box, and although the first was ignored by Felix Brych, Jose Velasquez's challenge on the latter did not go unpunished -- although it possibly should have -- with Brych pointing to the spot and Neymar stepping up for the instant equaliser.
Honduras would not manage to get another lead. Ten minutes after Neymar's spot kick, he turned provider, dancing through the defence and threading a pass to Leandro Damiao, who did well to turn his marker before slamming a shot past Mendoza to make it 3-2.
The match wasn't over, though. Gabriel's a weak link for Brazil, and his failure to claim a corner led to a mad scramble in the box which ended with an Espinoza shot over the bar from four yards out and the goal at his mercy. Then Romelu managed to avoid a red card of his own after clattering that same Espinoza in the midfield, managing to evade punishment from Brych by faking an injury (cunning!). The resulting free kick from Maynor Figueroa nearly blasted Gabriel into his own net, but the goalkeeper held on with two white shirts looking for a rebound.
It wasn't a vintage Brazil performance by any stretch of the imagination, and it's not really an exaggeration to suggest that they were hanging on (against nine men after Espinoza was dismissed for a second yellow) by the end of the match. Still, it worked for them, and they're through to the semifinals after a 3-2 win. They'll face the winner of South Korea and Great Britain -- and those two teams will be thoroughly pleased by the mediocre display on show at St. James' Park.