Paulinho earned a recall to Luiz Felipe Scolari's starting XI in place of suspended defensive midfielder Luiz Gustavo, while 32-year-old right-back Maicon was selected ahead of Dani Alves. Fredy Guarin and Victor Ibarbo were back in the Colombia XI with Abel Aguilar and Jackson Martinez dropping to the bench.
Three of the previous four meetings between the sides had ended goalless...
...but the Selecao came flying out of the blocks in Fortaleza, and their early endeavours were rewarded as skipper Thiago Silva bundled in from a corner-kick inside seven minutes.
It was a busy opening 20 minutes for Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina as Brazil surged forward in search of more goals, with poster boy Neymar eager to get involved at every opportunity.
Brazil continued to enjoy the lion's share of possession, 61% of it by the 35 minute mark. But Jose Pekermen's side were slowly but surely imposing themselves on proceedings, and although they had seen less of the ball overall, Los Cafeteros had made almost as many passes in the attacking third.
...yet they weren't giving goalkeeper Julio Cesar too much to worry about. In contast, Brazil had peppered the Colombia goal with 11 first half efforts, 4 of them on target.
The Selecao's full-backs were frequently rampaging forward; by the interval Marcelo and Maicon were involved in the top three pass combinations of the match.
While Colombia's star man James Rodriguez had mixed fortunes in the first half; successful with all 3 of his take-ons but also dumped on his backside on multiple occasions as Brazil looked to stop him in his tracks.
The start of the second half was more even, with Colombia looking the more likely to score next only to be continually upended. Brazil conceded 12 free-kicks in the first 22 minutes after half-time.
But if paid off as the hosts doubled their lead with another set-piece, only this time in spectacular style. David Luiz's howitzer gave Ospina no chance - it was Brazil's first shot on goal of the second period.
Undeterred, Colombia ploughed on in search of salvation, and a grandstand finale was ensured after Cesar wiped out substitute Carlos Bacca in the box. Rodriguez confidently converted from the spot to become the first player since Rivaldo in 2002 to net in the first five games of a World Cup.
A late siege on the Selecao goal failed to produce a leveller and force extra-time. Colombia fired in 7 second half efforts compared to Brazil's 2, while Scolari's men had to make 26 clearances after the break to Colombia's 3.
28 fouls in the second half alone disrupted the flow of the game and denied either side the chance to build up any serious momentum. The game saw more fouls committed than in any match at the tournament so far (54; the previous most was 51 during Brazil's previous outing against Chile), while Brazil's 31 fouls was their highest ever tally in a World Cup match (1966-2014).
Credited with having one of the best defences in the tournament, it was Brazilians who stood out in the defensive statisitics to help haul them into the final four. Fernandinho made more ball recoveries than anyone else on the pitch, while Paulinho - deputising for Luiz Gustavo - was his team's best tackler, winning 6/8.
Skipper Thiago Silva led by example, scoring the opener and topping the charts for blocks (3), clearances (14) and aerial duels (5/7) and he will be huge miss in the semi-final against Germany after picking up a second yellow card of the competition.
And bad news became devastating after it was revealed Neymar could miss the rest of the tournament after damaging a vertebrae. The 22-year-old set up 4 chances including the cross for Silva's deadlock-breaker and made more attacking third passes than any other Brazil player (10/15).
Facts and figures
- Neymar recorded his first assist of the World Cup with his delivery for Brazil’s opening goal.
- Thiago Silva scored Brazil’s quickest World Cup goals since Ronaldo’s striker versus Ghana in 2006 (5 mins).
- David Luiz scored with Brazil’s first attempt of the second half. 2 of Brazil’s 13 shots came in the second half.
- James Rodriguez has scored in each of his 5 World Cup appearances, scoring 6 goals in total.
- The Colombian is the first player since Ronaldo (8) in 2002 to score more than 5 times in a single World Cup.
- Rodriguez (71) had more touches than any other player in the match.
- Rivaldo (in 2002) was the last player to score in every one of a team’s opening 5 games in a World Cup.
- This game saw more fouls committed than any match at this tournament so far (54; previous most was 51 during Brazil vs Chile).
- Brazil (31) conceded more fouls than they have done in any World Cup match (1966-2014).
- The last time there were more fouls in a single World Cup game was Germany vs Argentina in 2006 (55).
- Brazil have reached the semi-finals of the World Cup for the first time since 2002.
- Brazil have won 14 of their 21 competitive meetings with Colombia (D6 L1).
- Brazil are unbeaten in 13 clashes with Colombia, winning 8 and drawing 5.
- Just 2 of Colombia’s 11 attempts were on target.
- Oscar has now made 25 tackles at this World Cup, more than any other player in the tournament.