BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil – That rumble coming from Brazil was the sound of a nation exhaling.
Brazil escaped what would have been a national catastrophe, beating Chile 3-2 on penalty kicks to advance to the quarterfinals. When Gonzalo Jara's shot banged off the near post, the Estadio Mineirao shook with the cheers of fans.
The Brazilian players rushed to surround Julio Cesar, hugging him and patting him on the back. Chile, meanwhile, could only stand and watch, disconsolate. La Roja has now been eliminated by Brazil the last three times it reached the round of 16.
Brazil, which hadn't been eliminated before the quarterfinals since 1990, will play the winner of Colombia-Uruguay on Friday in Fortaleza.
That roar may as well have been a sigh of relief, however, because theSeleção did not look like a team that can survive all the way to the final at the Maracana. Despite what the score sheet said, its only goal in regulation was an own goal by Chile's Jara, and a goal by Hulk was waved off because of a handball.
Brazil couldn't finish several chances, and Chile's Mauricio Pinilla put a scare from Porto Allegre to the Amazon when he banged the ball off the crossbar in the 120thminute.
Anxiety and pressure hung over the stadium like a blanket as the teams got ready for penalties. Fans chanted "I believe! I believe!" but even the shouts of encouragement had to have felt like a weight on the players.
The five-time champions are always expected to win the World Cup. But with the tournament in Brazil, and Brazilians furious about the chronic delays and overruns that pushed the cost of putting on the tournament to $11 billion, nothing less than a record sixth title will do.
Air horns began blaring in Belo Horizonte before 7 a.m., six hours before the game, and downtown streets were filled with merry Brazilians in the team's trademark canary yellow shirt. Many carried flags while others wore them in every manner imaginable: on their faces, on their eyelids, on their nails, as headbands, dangling from their ears.
Closer to the stadium, fans packed a bar well before 10 a.m., the overflow crowd spilling out onto the sidewalk, beers in hand.
The stadium was awash in yellow, and the level of excitement was worthy of a final.
But if theSeleçãofelt pressure as they faced Bravo, they didn't show it.
Shooting first, David Luiz went left while Claudio Bravo went right to give Brazil an early lead. Julio Cesar blocked Chile's first two shots, making a miss by Willian not matter. Then came Marcelo. Bravo read his shot right, but the ball banged off his hands and into the net, setting off another round of celebration.
Charles Aranguiz kept Chile alive, freezing Julio Cesar. But after Bravo's kick save of Hulk's effort, Marcelo Diaz beat Julio Cesar.
That brought up Neymar, who almost looked as if he was in slow-motion as he stutter-stepped and faked out Bravo. As the ball settled into the net, Neymar put his finger to his lips. But when Jara's shot clanged off the post, all of Brazil let loose with a roar.