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Brazil beat curse of the crossbar, Cesar makes history

india Updated: Jun 29, 2014 19:26 IST
Sandipan Sharma

There was no chance Chile were going to win their game against Brazil. Even if all Brazilian players would have been red-carded or retired hurt, Chile would have gone back home on Saturday.

Why? Because goalposts have memories and not every Cesar is meant to be a tragic figure.

We have heard many stories of an invisible force saving somebody from the clutches of death. But Brazil's saviour wasn't invisible. It was perhaps a visible ghost from history.

Read: Brazil got lucky, have to reduce mistakes, says Scolari

Perhaps the saviour had to repay an old debt to Brazil. Perhaps Brazil's guardian angel on Saturday wanted to gift its goalkeeper Julio Cesar what it had denied to another Julio Cesar almost 30 years ago. Perhaps…

But, more about the debt from 1986 later. First, let us hail the saviour.

Hulk made a careless pass, allowing Eduardo Vargas to pounce and set up Sanchez, who coolly beat Cesar in goal.

Read: Round of 16: Who is in, who is out?

Luiz's goal. (AP PHOTO)

It was the 119th minute, the dying moment of the game. The football made perhaps its final sortie into the Brazilian half. A few more touches and the refree would have blown the whistle, much to the relief of the tired bodies that had battled on for almost two hours.

Neymar hobbled, Scolari looked nervously at the ticking clock and Cesar seemed to be advance-playing the first penalty kick in his mind. Everybody appeared set for a penalty shootout.

But it wasn't over, or it was almost — for Brazil. Chile's Pinilla and Sanchez did a bit of tiki-taka and raced towards the Brazilian goal. Pinilla hit a thunderous left that seemed headed into World Cup history. But it hit the crossbar.

Read: Brazil sweat on Neymar injury after win

The saviour had arrived.

Cut to the final penalty of the game, the last shot of the war. Chile's Jara beats Cesar and the ball seems headed towards the goal.

But Brazil are saved. The goalpost, Brazil's saviour, came in the way again.

Goalposts do not have a life. They certainly do not have memories. And to even presume that crossbars have a burden of conscience would be comical.

But not if you were awake one summer midnight of 1986, when Brazil paid the penalty for being too cocky at the Mexico World Cup and got kicked out by France.

HT@World Cup: Once a villain, now a hero - 4 years after mistake, Cesar keeps Brazil alive

Just like on Saturday, that night too Brazil and France were tied 1-1. Michel Platini had brought Les Bleus back into the game when he scored to erase the lead Brazil had after Careca's goal.

Then came the penalty shootout. Socrates missed the first shot for Brazil. With France ahead by one, Bellone stepped up to take the third shot for the Blues.

He hit the ball in the right corner but into the crossbar. The ball ricocheted, hit the Brazilian goalkeeper who had dived to stop it and went into the goal.

Mayhem ensued. Brazil protested saying since Bellone had missed the penalty it should not be counted as a goal. Experts were divided, commentators were confused, but the refree allowed the goal.

Branco scored for Brazil next, Michel Platini, the Messi of his generation, missed his. It was 3-3.

Brazil's goalkeeper Julio Cesar save a shot in goal. (AFP PHOTO)

The last penalty for Brazil was taken by defender Julio Cesar. He hit it to the left and the ball beat the French goalkeeper in flight. Guess where did it land? Right into the middle of the bar.

On that night in Mexico, Brazil was destroyed by the bar. Twice.

In that game Cesar had turned into his nation's tragic villain.

On Saturday, the debt was paid. Both the crossbar and Cesar saved Brazil. Twice.

Read: Round of 16: Who is in, who is out?

Yes, goalposts too have a memory. And not every Cesar is destined to be beaten by crossbars.