Diego Lugano got his way when he called for strong refereeing in his team’s 2-1 Confederations Cup soccer semifinal defeat to Brazil. The Uruguay captain won a penalty kick only to see teammate Diego Forlan miss.
Defender Lugano was jeered at the Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte last night after claiming in a press conference on the eve of the game that Brazil’s star striker Neymar “can drop to the ground and fool the referee.”
Lugano went down under a challenge from defender David Luiz in the 14th minute and watched as Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar dived to his left to turn Forlan’s spot kick around a post.
“A penalty is not a goal, it’s a very clear chance for a goal, but until it materializes you cannot know if it will become a goal or not,” Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez told reporters after his team’s defeat. “It had a huge effect on our opponents who, up until then, had been dominated.”
Cesar described his stop as the “most important penalty I was able to save” and credited his team for grinding out a victory after easing into the semifinals with three straight group-stage wins.
Luiz conceded that Chilean referee Enrique Osses was correct in pointing to the spot.
“I saw the ball coming into the space where Lugano could score and I pulled him,” Luiz said in an interview.
Fred put Brazil ahead shortly before halftime. Edinson Cavani tied it three minutes after the restart and Paulinho secured the victory with a headed goal five minutes before the end. Brazil will play Spain or Italy, who meet in Fortaleza today, in the June 30 final in Rio de Janeiro.
Brazil, which celebrated by linking hands and bowing to all sides of the stadium, came into the eight-team competition under pressure to show that it could challenge for a record-extending sixth World Cup title as host next year. Luiz Felipe Scolari, who led Brazil to its last World Cup win in 2002, was rehired in February amid a slump in form and growing public criticism.
“We did not play as we did in previous matches, yet what we are always telling you is that we are still working on our team,” Scolari told reporters. “This what we are doing in this competition. We are growing up, the whole team is growing up.”
When he named his roster on May 14, Scolari left out players such as World Cup winners Kaka and Ronaldinho in favor of others with less international experience.
Uruguay, which reached the semifinals of the 2010 World Cup and won South America’s Copa America the following year, had several starters who have been in the national team for more than five years.
Their experience told as they quieted the crowd by imposing a physical game on Brazil. Three Brazilians and two Uruguayans were yellow carded in the game, which also included several confrontations between the players.
“Uruguay know when to put in a kick and to be physical,” Luiz said. “The Brazilian team now is more mature because it can play games that are open and ones like today which was so difficult.”
Fred got his third goal in four tournament games after goalkeeper Fernando Muslera’s save from Neymar fell to him in front of the goal. A mistake from Brazil captain Thiago Silva gifted Cavani the chance to level after halftime. Cavani intercepted the Paris Saint-Germain defender’s attempted pass to a teammate inside the penalty box and buried a shot into the bottom corner.
With extra time looming, Paulinho headed in at the far post from Neymar’s corner in the 85th minute.
“The team was so mature it waited for the exact moment to score the second goal,” said Luiz. “I’m so happy now because I saw on the pitch one thing -- fighting all the game. We didn’t play a great game with the ball but we did a great game mentally.”