Brazil Narrowly Dodges A World Cup Knockout

The host nation's team lives to play another day after a riveting match Saturday against Chile. The game was decided by a tie-breaking shootout, with a final score of 3-2.

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DON GONYEA, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Don Gonyea. Brazil has lived to play another day at the World Cup - barely. The host country was taken to the absolute limit yesterday before prevailing on penalty kicks against Chile.

It was the first game of the tournament's knockout stage. NPR's Tom Goldman reports on how the Brazilians almost got drummed out.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: They didn't play very well for one thing - certainly not to a level that matches the enormous expectations in this country. Brazil took the lead in the 18th minute of the first half. Chile equalized late in the half after a sloppy throw in by Brazil.

Through the second half and the two 15-minute overtime periods, Chile was the Brazilian's equal, if not better. And Chile might have won near the end of overtime had a laser shot by Mauricio Pinilla not hit the crossbar. But good teams can win even when they don't play well, especially if someone does something heroic.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING CROWN)

GOLDMAN: Multiply that sound at restaurant Socaldinho Camarao in Recife a gazillion times and you've got Brazil's reaction to Julio Cesar blocking the first of five penalty kicks by Chile. Cesar, whose job title over the course of the penalty kicks changes from Brazilian goalkeeper to national hero for life, blocked the next kick as well.

It gave Brazil a critical cushion. And after star forward Neymar made Brazil's last kick for a 3-2 lead, defender Gonzalo Jara smacked Chile's last attempt off the post.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING CROWD)

GOLDMAN: Outside the restaurant Eduardo Zshoo said Brazil played badly. He said he was nervous for the first time in the tournament. And then he grinned.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

EDUARDO ZSHOO: Wonderful life. It's the best - the best. Brazil's the best.

GOLDMAN: What's that?

ZSHOO: Brazil is the best.

GOLDMAN: Maybe. What we can say with confidence is that Brazil is in the quarterfinals and a nation and, quite possibly, FIFA, soccer's governing body, don't have to anguish over what a Brazilian World Cup would be like without Brazil, until the next game. Tom Goldman, NPR News, Recife.

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