That was pretty much what this was as well, with foul after foul spoiling promising play that saw Thiago Silva and David Luiz net for the hosts to end the Colombian dream. Samba football this certainly wasn’t but still they progress, despite conceding a late penalty converted by the excellent James Rodriguez.
Within seven minutes the fans who had sung the Brazilian national anthem so passionately had an opening goal to celebrate.
An odd one it was too, with Neymar’s corner eluding a cluster of jumping players from both sides and Silva sweeping home at the back post as Carlos Sanchez stood and watched. Cue mayhem in the stands of Fortaleza.
Juan Cuadrado saw Colombia’s first reply deflected behind but poor defending from another corner almost undid Colombia again, with Cuadrado the culprit, but a defender was able to hack away.
Goalkeeper David Ospina denied Hulk and then Oscar as Brazil pressed but a three-on-one break led by Rodriguez broke down disappointingly shortly after the ball reached the luckless Cuadrado.
Another Hulk effort was batted away by Ospina as the game simply refused to slow down despite the heat. Brazil survived the scare of conceding a couple of free-kicks in dangerous positions but Neymar wasn’t far away from the top-corner from one at the other end.
Spanish referee Carlos Velasco Carballo had been rather lenient though, especially where persistent fouls by Fernandinho on Rodriguez were concerned, and the Manchester City man was lucky not to go into the break on a yellow card.
Rodriguez continued to take a battering as the game moved past the hour mark without a single booking but the free-kicks were mounting up to the detriment of the earlier entertainment value. Silva actually hurt himself clattering a Colombian.
Chances were rare at both ends although Fredy Guarin hooked one over the Brazil bar.
Brazil were living on their nerves despite their goal advantage and it was a while before Neymar was on the ball. Not for long though as Cuadrado sent him flying — and again no card was shown.
Finally one arrived — and it was Silva for needlessly knocking the ball out of the goalkeeper’s hands. Costly too as he misses the semi as a result.
Colombia’s big moment came and went in the 65th minute when Brazil failed to clear a high free-kick into their box and Mario Yepes thumped the ball into the net, only for an offside flag to rule it out.
The game’s second yellow quickly followed and it was an injustice handed out to Rodriguez for his first indiscretion of the game. It was to prove pivotal as David Luiz came charging up to power the free-kick past Ospina.
Colombia sent on Carlos Bacca and the striker duly won a penalty, with keeper Julio Cesar upending him and, inevitably, staying on the pitch. Rodriguez slotted it home to strengthen his claim for the Golden Boot.
The last 10 minutes were fraught for the hosts. Bacca headed just wide but was offside anyway but Colombia attacked to the end. Brazil held out but the sight of Neymar being carried off on a stretcher — the result of yet another poor challenge — meant victory may well have come at a significant price.
Julio Cesar 6; Maicon 6, Thiago Silva 7, David Luiz 7, Marcelo 7; Fernandinho 6, Paulinho 7 (Hernanes 86); Hulk 7 (Ramires 82), Oscar 7, Neymar 6; Fred 5.
Ospina 7; Zapata 7, Yepes 8, Armero 7, Zuniga 7; Sanchez 5, Guarin 6, Cuadrado 5, Ibarbo 5 (Ramos 46, 5); Rodriguez 9, Gutierrez 5 (Bacca 69, 5).
Carlos Velasco Carvballo (Spain).