A towering Paulinho header saw Brazil edge out Uruguay 2-1 on June 26 in an ill-tempered Confederations Cup semi-final in Belo Horizonte to set up a final with either world champions Spain or Italy.
Fred scored from close range two minutes from half-time to calm home nerves for the five-time world champions and Confederations title holders after Diego Forlan had first missed a penalty for Uruguay.
But Edinson Cavani pulled a poachers strike out of the bag three minutes after the restart and thereafter the Samba stars were rocking before Paulinho rose high to plant a firm close-range header past Galatasaray’s Fernando Muslera in the Uruguay goal to cement a barely deserved victory.
Matches between the South American neighbours have long been tense affairs – not least since the Uruguayans shocked the Brazilians in the 1950 World Cup final in Rio to deny their hosts a first title.
But what gave this meeting added spice as both nations limber up for next year’s World Cup were pre-match comments by Uruguayan skipper Diego Lugano labelling Brazilian starlet Neymar a diver.
The Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) issued a furious rebuttal of the claim, but there was clearly no love lost between the sides as they snapped into tackles and scrapped for every smidgin of territory.
Brazil made a sluggish start and former Fenerbahçe player Diego Lugano was to the fore as he won a penalty for the Uruguayans after 16 minutes.
The veteran defender tussled with Chelsea centreback David Luiz in the box and went down – but Chilean referee Enrique Osses quickly spotted that Luiz had tugged on his rival’s shirt and gave the spotkick.
Uruguay’s record goalscorer Forlan stepped forward but placed his low kick too close to Julio Cesar, the Brazilian keeper diving away to his left to push the ball round the post and elicit a deafening cheer from a 60,000 crowd at the Estadio Mineirao.
Around twice that number were in the streets, kept out by a police cordon as they joined yet another protest against crumbling public services and government corruption as well as the multibillion bill for staging major sporting events.
Brazil will play the winner of today’s semi-final between world champions Spain and Italy in a rematch of the Euro 2012 final which the Spaniards won.