Facts: 7 truths – Neymar, Rodriguez and Luiz’s goalface

The Rio Report

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1) Neymar injury could galvanise Brazil

His face was plastered on billboards around the globe ahead of the Brazil finals, but he’s been unable to set the tournament alight despite scoring an impressive four goals in the group stage. Frustrated against Chile in the last-16, the forward was also unable to make an impact against Colombia before a reckless challenge from Juan Zuniga prematurely ended his World Cup. What hope is there for Brazil now?

Well, actually it’s not as bad as you might think. An image of the poster boy on his hospital bed could create a siege mentality amongst the Brazil squad and draw their remaining attackers out of their shells – Fred, Hulk (mainly Fred), we’re looking at you. Imagine the scenes in Estadio Mineirao, where Brazil will face Germany in the semi-finals, if Neymar’s picture pops up on the big screen on Tuesday. The hosts won’t be losing that clash. And for Zuniga’s sake, we hope they don’t.

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2) Klose on course for legendary status despite limited ability

Miroslav Klose’s super-speedy substitute goal against Ghana took his World Cup haul to a joint-record 15 goals and ensured him of a spot in the hall of fame alongside the likes of Diego Maradona, Pele and Franz Beckenbauer. But does he deserve to be mentioned alongside those names?

Twenty per cent of his goals came in an 8-0 demolition of Saudi Arabia and he has bagged just one goal at the quarter-final stage or beyond (Ronaldo has four) – a statistic that continued with a frustrating spell in attack during Germany’s victory over France. The beneficiary of inch-perfect aerial assists, Klose has profited from playing as a lone striker for an attacking German outfit for the past 12 years. A couple of Bundesliga titles aside, he’s achieved little on the club scene but looks set to be remembered as one of the World Cup greats when in reality he is little more than a good player with predatory instincts.

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3) Lenient refereeing can actually make for a less open match

Brazil’s victory over Colombia was overshadowed by a crazy foul count of 51 – 31 of which were committed by the hosts and it seemed Fernandinho’s sole instruction was to ensure James Rodriguez spent as much time on the ground as possible.

The farcical scenes in Fortaleza could have been avoided by a yellow card, but the referee instead elected to continuously err on the side of caution. Granted players go down to easily, but if fouls are being awarded then it means the official has spotted an infringement and should take action. Sort it out, ref(s).

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4) Rodriguez is the real deal

When Luiz demanded the Brazilian faithful applaud a tearful James Rodriguez off the pitch, it was a reminder of the progress the 22-year-old had made. Hidden in the shadow of injured team-mate Falcao in the tournament build-up, Rodriguez has emerged as the standout star of the tournament and looks set to walk away with the Golden Boot after taking his total to six goals from five games with a strike from the penalty spot.

He’ll wake up on Saturday morning covered in bruises in the knowledge that he was pinpointed as the danger man by the tournament favourites. Rodriguez can look forward to a permanently ringing phone from now until the end of the transfer window as every big club on the planet tries to prise him away from Monaco. Even grasshoppers admire him.

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5) Valbuena is destined for a top club (apologies, Marseille)

It’s taken him until three months shy of his 30th birthday, but Mathieu Valbuena is finally churning out consistent performances on the international stage. He was the sole creative output for much of France’s limp defeat to Germany as his team-mates injected a tempo akin to most pre-season friendlies, and was unfortunate not to complete the match when hauled off for Olivier Giroud with six minutes remaining.

He might be a bit on the short side – his mascot amusingly shielded him from view during the national anthems – but his ability to drift into space and unexpectedly shift the ball into dangerous areas makes him an idea investment. His game is not overly reliant on physical attributes, so it’s unlikely Europe’s big clubs will be put off by his age when it comes to landing him in the summer.

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6) This kit change nonsense is ridiculous

In 40 years’ time, when we’re gearing up for Neptune 2054, our memory of the greatest World Cup will have been long-polluted by Brazil’s yellow shirt, white shorts combo. Each time we rewatch David Luiz’s belting free-kick, and subsequent corner flag boot, will evoke feelings of nausea.

So what if Colombia were playing in navy blue shorts? The yellow versus red colour clash was easily enough to tell them apart. Yes, it’s to obey some fancy FIFA rule but surely common sense should prevail – particularly in the latter stages? No one wants to see a World Cup strip that looks like the kitman’s forgotten the shorts and socks.

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7) David Luiz is a beast of facial expressions

Oh yes – this picture says a thousand words. Brazil’s very own Marco Tardelli moment. We’re slightly fearful over what facial expression would be created if he scores in a final…

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