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The 2014 FIFA World Cup

“We got lucky,” Scolari admits

SCOLARI-RUSSIABELO HORIZONTE, June 28- Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari accepted that luck was on his team’s side after they scraped into the World Cup quarter-finals on Saturday by beating Chile on penalties.

“If you don’t exploit the few opportunities you get, you can go out. We almost paid the price in the 118th minute when the ball hit the bar,” said Scolari, whose side triumphed 3-2 in a shoot-out at the Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte after a 1-1 draw over 90 minutes and extra time.

Brazil squandered several chances, converting just one of 13 attempts on target due to poor finishing and good goalkeeping by Chile’s Claudio Bravo.

And they survived when Chile substitute Mauricio Pinilla crashed a shot off the woodwork with penalties approaching.

In the shoot-out, Willian and Hulk both missed for the tournament hosts but goalkeeper Julio Cesar made two crucial saves from Pinilla and Alexis Sanchez before Gonzalo Jara hit the post when he had to score to keep Chile in it.

“We had three or four chances to score a (second) goal and didn’t do it. We had even possession and more shots on goal, but when you don’t score you always run more of a risk,” Scolari said before praising his side for coping with the extreme pressure.

“This is a new team and even the most experienced players feel pressure. If you say you don’t, you are lying.

“Willian took a penalty and missed it but he will gain experience from it. Now let’s see if we can make less mistakes in the next matches, because if we make errors we will give away chances and might not be so lucky.

“Chile were brilliant. They are a well-organised team and it was a very balanced game,” he said.

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Brazil may have the woodwork to thank for two crucial interventions in the game, but goalkeeper Julio Cesar played a huge role.

He broke down in tears just before starring in the shoot-out, and was also outstanding during the game itself, notably denying Charles Aranguiz in the second half with the score 1-1.

– Julio Cesar from villain to hero –

“The Brazilian people needed this, and so did the players. We knew how difficult it would be,” said the 34-year-old after collecting the man-of-the-match award.

“I hope that our coming matches don’t go to penalties, because otherwise our families will end up having heart problems.”

Questions were asked about Scolari’s decision to make the goalkeeper, now playing Major League Soccer for Toronto FC, his first choice at this World Cup.

However, Cesar hopes that his display against Chile will end the doubts.

“I prepared well physically and psychologically for this. It was difficult to come out of the 2010 World Cup labelled as a villain but I have always had the support of the players and supporters,” said Cesar, who was partially blamed for Brazil’s 2-1 defeat to the Netherlands in the quarter-finals in South Africa.

“I never hid that I am an emotional person. This match proves that if you have a dream you must chase it.”

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Brazil will return to training on Monday as their attentions turn to a quarter-final tie against Colombia in Fortaleza on Friday.

And Scolari will hope that his battered and bruised players, above all Neymar, recover in time.

“Neymar hurt his thigh right at the start of the game from a heavy challenge (by Aranguiz in the fourth minute). We need to evaluate it but we should have three, four or five days to try and make sure he can play the next game.

“We will need to recover and learn from what happened here to improve in the next game. The emotion generated by winning, this could help us,” he said.

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