Brazil took another step towards recovering their once famous invincibility when Paulinho scored with a late header to seal a 2-1 win over Uruguay and take the hosts into the Confederations Cup final.
Wednesday’s result was Brazil’s fifth win in five games and meant they will face either Spain or Italy in Sunday’s final at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro. The European duo meet in Fortaleza on Thursday.
Both sides said the decisive moment of the match came in the 13th minute when Chelsea defender David Luiz wrestled Uruguay captain Diego Lugano to the ground. Diego Forlan’s weak penalty was well saved by Julio Cesar, who dived to his left to turn it round the post.
“More than having an effect on my team, it had a huge effect on the opponent,” Uruguay manager Oscar Tabarez told a news conference.
“They had been second best until then and as of that moment they grew.”
Brazil went on to take the lead in the 40th minute when Neymar latched onto to a long ball from Paulinho and his deflected shot fell to Fred who bundled the ball home from just inside the six-yard box.
But it took Uruguay just three minutes of the second half to draw level. The Brazilian defence repeatedly failed to clear the ball and when Thiago Silva’s weak pass fell to Cavani he made no mistake with an angled drive.
The second half threw up few good chances and again Paulinho was in the thick of the action. With four minutes remaining the Corinthians midfielder rose at the back post to head home a Neymar corner to seal victory.
Uruguay threw everyone forward in the closing minutes but they could not find an equaliser.
Both sides looked nervous and tense for much of the contest, with neither able to string many passes together.