Bravo the shootout hero as Sanchez, Ronaldo scrap fails to inspire

Updated: 

Chile's wrecking ball at international tournaments just keeps on swinging. The best-supported team at the Confederations Cup has claimed Portugal as their latest scalp, winning a penalty shootout (again) to reach the final and another shot at glory.

Much of the talk before the game was about Cristiano Ronaldo against Alexis Sanchez, but neither livewire managed to spark in 120 tense minutes of the semi-final in Kazan. Instead, it was one of Chile's almost-forgotten heroes who made the telling contribution.

It's fitting that Claudio Bravo should be the hero. 

A torrid season at Manchester City must have had the goalkeeper doubting his own credentials but he made three excellent shootout saves to deny the European champions their own chance of history.

It was unsurprising to see this game billed as the battle of the two star forwards. They were on the fringes of the action for the most part but always looked ready to change the game, hovering around the field of play waiting to produce moments of magic when it suited.

Sanchez's first involvement was a glorious reverse pass that sent Eduardo Vargas clean through. His strike partner should have scored but shot straight at Rui Patricio. In response, Ronaldo collected a high long ball and sent a sublime cross into the feet of Andre Silva, who was denied at the far post by the width of the sprawling Bravo's backside.

The fast and attacking opening seemed to catch everyone by surprise and matters were soon broken down into feisty fits and starts. William Carvalho caught Vargas on the foot and Gonzalo Jara stood on Adrien Silva's ankle. The Sporting CP midfielder later talked himself into the book for protesting against Chile's rough treatment but it was coming from both sides.

All the while, Sanchez and Ronaldo paced, pouted and waited to pounce without ever landing a killer blow. Portugal's skipper was thwarted by Bravo early in the second half, Sanchez had a promising hit blocked by Jose Fonte and Ronaldo immediately led a counter-attack.

It was a prolonged 'feeling-out' of their opponents, a heavyweight bout of nothing but test jabs. One Ronaldo free-kick missed the sweet spot by several metres. Sanchez made a bold run but took a touch too many. They were all opportunities for great moments that rather limped into nothingness.

Sanchez missed his best chance early in extra-time. A brilliant turn and pass sent Mauricio Isla clear and the Arsenal man burst into the box to meet the cross, only to steer his header inches wide when almost all 40,855 in the stands thought it was in.

Both coaches were eager to stress before this match that each team depends on the sum of its parts and it would be remiss to ignore some of the other performances at Kazan Arena. Bernardo Silva was sublime until his damaged ankle could last no longer; William Carvalho had one of his best international performances.

For Chile, Arturo Vidal was at his rapacious best and was inches from an extra-time winner, his rasping shot clattering the post before the rebound was steered by Martin Rodriguez onto the crossbar and into Patricio's grateful gloves. He was never going to miss his penalty.

In the end, it was Bravo's moment. There was gamesmanship aplenty as he delayed Portugal's penalties to have a drink and danced from side to side on his line, but he saved from Ricardo Quaresma and Joao Moutinho as Vidal, Charles Aranguiz and Sanchez scored with aplomb. When he refused to be bamboozled by Nani's dithering run-up, the stadium erupted as though it were a home game at the Copa America.

Ronaldo had never left the halfway line.