Red hot Chile progressed into the final of the Confed Cup on Wednesday night after keeping a clean sheet against Portugal, and that’s including the penalty shoot-out. Claudio Bravo (minus the beard) was the hero, yes you read that right, for Chile as he saved all three penalties that Portugal took. The match itself was goalless but not completely dull with chances for both sides and the keepers performed well.
There were openings straight away for both sides as Rui Patricio rushed out to smother Eduardo Vargas’s effort after he was put through by Alexis Sanchez. Up the other end, Cristiano Ronaldo rolled a ball across to Andre Silva who saw his close-range shot saved by Manchester City keeper (for now), Claudio Bravo. Chile were the better side overall as they hit the post twice, once through Arturo Vidal’s fierce strike and then again after Alexis Sanchez headed goal wards.
Extra time came and went as penalties loomed large on the two teams. Vidal smashed the first spot-kick into the side netting; almost the perfect penalty, it got better for Chile as Bravo saved Ricardo Quaresma’s effort. Chile scored two more penalties to heap the pressure on Nani, who had to score with his team 3-0 down at the time. He stuttered to the ball, scraping it towards the bottom right-hand corner but there was Claudio Bravo again. And there was finally a chance for the ‘Bravo, Bravo’ comments to be used by TV presenters in their final line just before the credits.
Cristiano Ronaldo didn’t get to take a penalty, just like at Euro 2012, as he was presumably their 5th taker. Portugal lost to Spain in Kiev 5 years ago and the shoot-out did not reach the 5th penalty. It sparked a debate whether you put your strongest takers in the order – my advice is to win the game in normal time.
But who will face the South American Champions in the Confed Cup final on Sunday? Germany meet Mexico in Sochi on Thursday night so you don’t have to wait too long to find out! Germany have never won this competition so they’ll be looking to overcome a Mexican side who are dangerous as to the other team as they are to themselves. Their attacking style of play can leave them a few numbers short at the back.
The young German team will be firm favourites to win the semi-final but knockout football is very different, it can throw up unpredictable circumstances such as Claudio Bravo being good. The climate may suit the Central Americans as well. Sochi has a Mediterranean climate and temperatures could rise to close to 30 ͦC but it’s not just Sochi that is warm in Russia, almost everywhere where football is played has a pleasant climate in the summer and fans are sometimes mislead to think Russia is covered in snow and people ice skate to work.
Whether the weather affects the game or not, it should be an intriguing watch with two young sides battling it out for a spot in the final with Chile.