On Sunday, David Luiz cast his reputation as an attack-loving defender aside and became a hero.
The Brazil defender made an amazing goal-line clearance late in the first half of the FIFA Confederations Cup final. His intervention prevented Spain from tying the score at 1-1 just five minutes before halftime.
Instead, Brazil added its second goal of the game just moments after Luiz’s feat, which means his sliding save is widely recognized as the turning point in a thrilling contest, according to Bloomberg.
“The moment of our victory was when he saved that goal,” Brazil head coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said.
The famous play started when Spain’s Fernando Torres sent Juan Mata forward on the left. He crossed to Pedro who was free on the right side of the area, and the Spanish forward quickly controlled the ball and shot it past Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar.
Fortunately for Brazil, Luiz hadn’t given up on the play after Mata’s pass. He kept running toward his own goal — despite the ball being on the other side of the defense — and intercepted Pedro’s shot with a sliding save that popped the ball over the crossbar.
Luiz had a feeling about where Pedro might shoot. He had seen him aim for the far post many times before for Spain and Barcelona, according to FIFA.com.
“It was more a case of me reading the situation,” Luiz said. “When I saw Pedro get on to Mata’s pass, I knew that he’d try to shoot past the keeper and that Julio Cesar would try to close down the angle on Pedro’s right. I know him pretty well and I’ve seen him lots of times. He’s a great player. I knew he might try to put the ball there and that’s how I was able to read the game and make the interception.”
Brazil would score another goal in the second half to win the final of the showcase tournament by a comfortable 3-0 margin.
Luiz has been criticized for his (perceived) defensive shortcomings since joining Chelsea FC in January 2011. But plays like this and his recent trophy haul — his Confederations Cup winners’ medal will sit alongside those from the UEFA Champions League (2012) FA Cup (2012) and UEFA Europa League (2013) — suggest he’s doing something right in the back.
See Luiz’s epic g0al-line save in the video below.