Manchester City goalkeeper Claudio Bravo was the hero on Wednesday night, as Chile beat Portugal on penalties to reach the Confederation Cup final in Russia.
The South American champions came closest to winning in Kazan, but the game went to penalties. Arturo Vidal, Charles Aranguiz and Alexis Sanchez scored Chile’s first three penalty kicks and then it was left to City flop Bravo to step up.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s decision to take the fifth penalty backfired as his side had already been defeated before his time came, with Bravo saving spot kicks from Ricardo Quaresma, Joao Moutinho and Nani. The win sending Chile through to its third straight international final after winning consecutive Copa America titles.
The 34 year-old joined City from Barcelona last summer for £15.4m to replace Joe Hart, but made just three saves in the Premier League in 2017, despite playing 529 minutes over six games. He faced 11 shots on target in 2017, conceding eight times, saving as many goals this semi-final as he had all season.
He came under increasing scrutiny with his strengths being criticised forcing City boss Pep Guardiola to splash the cash on Benfica stopper Ederson earlier this month for a world record fee.
After the game, Bravo betrayed no emotion as he told reporters: “I feel as I always do. I’m a very balanced person.
“I was injured and didn’t play at my normal pace. But I normally take things calmly and this was a very special game for us.
“We were able to reach the final which is very important for us, we’re completing a very successful cycle. We’re happy to play in the final.”
Chile boss Juan Antonio Pizzi believes Bravo deserves all the plaudits and was full of praise for his much-maligned keeper.
“Fortunately in the penalty shootout Claudio was amazing, the players who scored were amazing and I think we deserve to be in the final,” the coach said afterwards.
“When Claudio was able to stop the first effort after Arturo (Vidal) scored we started to feel a little more relaxed. Claudio had really analysed very well his opponents. He was very well prepared for that situation. That’s why we were able to win the penalty shootout.”
Chile will play the winner of Germany and Mexico in Sunday’s final in St. Petersburg.