Three former encounters in elimination matches and three easy wins: Brazil's excellent track record against Chile in World Cup matches looms over the opening round of the 2014 World Cup knockout stage, to be held this Saturday (28 June) at 1 PM Brasília time in the Mineirão stadium (Belo Horizonte). A special transportation scheme has been set up to help get fans to the stadium, including special buses, regular bus lines and the Move BRT system.
From the Brazilian side, the official message is that statistics do not win matches. The Chileans, on the other hand, use the numbers to spark morale and drive players to break the taboo, a particularly notable feat when playing in the home turf of their biggest World Cup nemesis.
In 1962, the World Cup happened in Chile and Brazil faced the home team in the semifinals. Garrincha drove the 4-2 Brazilian triumph all the way to that year's world championship, while the Chileans had to settle for third place (their best result in World Cup history). In 1998, the generation of Marcelo Salas and Ivan Zamorano was no match for Brazil's Ronaldo: 4-1 in the quarter-finals. In the last World Cup, in South Africa, the two teams once again faced off in the round of sixteen. The score ended in 3-0 to Brazil.
While making sure to highlight his confidence in his own team, coach Jorge Sampaoli did not fail to praise the qualities of Scolari's squad as well. “I believe Brazil's style is very straightforward, with a lot of speed in transitions, fast recovery of the ball and a very strong defence. There is also Neymar, a one-of-a-kind player who is playing an excellent World Cup. So there are many complicating factors that we'll have to face," he admitted.
Scolari also made sure to extoll the qualities of his number 10, who is one of the top scorers in the World Cup with four goals. “He is a very focused boy. He is driven, and has a very strong, very interesting personality. He is a very hands-on player, always involved with tactical situations and helping bring balance to the team. And I have to say that Neymar does not play to be the best in the world. He plays for Brazil, both the country and the team. And what he wants for Brazil is for us to be world champions," he said.
The match's referee will be England's Howard Webb (42). Interestingly, Webb also refereed the match between the two teams at the 2010 World Cup, when Brazil beat Chile by 3-0 in South Africa. Webb's officials will be Michael Mullarkey and Darren Cann (also from England).