By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The Seleção (Brazilian national team) are through to the FIFA Confederations Cup Final after defeating Uruguay 2-1 yesterday afternoon at Belo Horizonte’s Mineirão Stadium. The performance was less than convincing but an 86th minute Paulinho header sufficed to see the hosts into Sunday’s decider at Rio’s Maracanã.
The Mineirão was packed to the rafters and celebrated wildly at the final whistle, but it had been far from an easy ride. The match could have been complicated further had Diego Forlán converted a twelfth minute penalty for the visitors into a goal, after David Luiz pulled Lugano to the ground at a Uruguayan corner.
QPR stopper Júlio César tipped his effort round the post to keep the score goalless. Brazil started the game slowly and spent the opening half hour largely on the back foot.
Oscar blazed over before the hosts struck with their first real effort on goal. Neymar excellently controlled Paulinho’s pinpoint pass and shot, only to see Muslera palm away his effort.
The rebound fell straight to Fred, who opened the scoring with his third goal of the tournament five minutes before the interval. Brazil went into the break with a slender and fortuitous advantage.
That lead was wiped out less than two minutes after the restart. On three occasions, Brazil’s defense failed to clear a loose ball from their own penalty area and Edinson Cavani punished them with a left-footed effort, curling the ball beyond César.
Scolari brought on Bernard and Hernanes to add impetus to a lethargic midfield. Save for one Neymar effort, which Muslera easily caught, Brazil rarely threatened and Uruguay, bolstered by Luís Suarez and Cavani in attack, looked more likely to snatch a result.
The additional half-hour beckoned until one more set play came to Brazil’s rescue. Neymar‘s inswinging corner was sent deep over a flapping Muslera and Paulinho nodded the ball into the empty net.
At the final whistle, the Brazilians were cheered with rapturous applause. They will meet the winners of the Spain-Italy semi-final match set to take place this afternoon.
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