Brazil jumped out to an early lead against its South American rival, Colombia, with an early goal, then held on late to win 2-1 and reach the semifinal of a World Cup for the tenth time, but the first since 2002.
In Fortaleza, the host country and Colombia got off to a sloppy start, with both sides giving the ball away, and not looking sharp.
Brazil cashed in early.
In the 7th minute Neymar Jr. earned a corner kick, and his center flew by a clutch of players near the first post and found Brazil’s captain, Thiago Silva, all alone, and he kneed the ball in softly near the far post.
Both teams had chances in the first half, especially Brazil’s Hulk, who was stopped at point-blank range by Colombia’s keeper, David Ospina, on multiple occasions.
They went into the half with Brazil holding a 1-0 lead, and the Colombians seemed to have a hard time getting actual shots onto the goal.
Brazilian keeper Julio César didn’t touch the ball until a few minutes were left in the first half.
Both sides seemed to follow the defensive philosophy of hammering the other team’s No. 10.
Neymar and Colombia’s budding star, James Rodríguez were kept off the ball and off their game with physical play.
Colombia was able to attack more convincingly in the second half, but kept getting caught offside.
A wild scramble in the 66th minute in front of the Brazilian goal ended with Colombian captain, Mario Yepes, drilling the ball into the goal, but it turned out that two Cafeteros had been offside throughout the play.
About 90 seconds later, later Brazil’s David Luiz made it 2-0 with a picture-perfect free kick from about 30 yards out that lasered into the top right corner of the goal.
Colombia made it interesting.
In the 78th minute, Rodríguez passed the ball to a streaking Carlos Bacca, who was taken down by Julio César and awarded a penalty kick.
Rodríguez took it, waiting for Julio César to make a move, and when he did, Rodríguez cashed in, low and left to make the score 2-1.
They weren’t able, however, to tie the game in the remaining 17 minutes.
For Colombia, it was a spirited Cup run after losing its biggest star, Radamel Falcao to injury, and finding a new one in Rodríguez.
Brazil now faces a semifinal match against Germany on July 8 in Belo Horizonte.