Brazil’s dream of a record-extending World Cup in front of their own supporters became even more of a reality when they eliminated an in-form Colombia side led by the tournament’s star player, James Rodriguez. However joy soon turned to despair when it transpired a terrible challenge by Juan Zuniga fractured a vertebra of the talismanic Neymar.
The prospect of getting past matchplay masters Germany to book a spot in their own World Cup final at the Maracana was damaged by losing their star, but a bizarre story emerged on Sunday which suggested he may take ‘extreme measures’ to be able to play in the final if his team-mates do indeed see off the Germans.
However, now the majority opinion is that such a report is false.
Either way, the whole drama is taking the focus away from the task at hand: Brazil must up their game without their star if they’re to find a way past Germany. The hosts have got it done thus far against four of the five sides in their way, be it with skill, a little luck or a sublime set piece. But in Germany they will meet a cohesive unit strong enough to exploit their weaknesses and who tend to enjoy a rub of the green themselves. The last thing Brazil should be doing is mourning Neymar until their World Cup fate is confirmed.
WHAT THE JOURNALISTS SAY
Henry Winter, Telegraph – Brazil without Neymar is like Rio de Janeiro without Christ the Redeemer. Still good, still enjoyable, but definitely missing a star attraction, a major reference point. A cynical Colombian placed his knee at speed in the back of Neymar, damaging his third vertebra, breaking his heart and ending his World Cup, hitherto a tournament about expression not nihilism. Christ, the reducer.
No wonder former players, legendary World Cup winners like Ronaldo, Lothar Matthäus and Fabio Cannavaro reacted angrily. Gathered at Fifa’s bequest at Maracana to debate the quality of this tournament, they used the platform to voice their disgust at what had befallen Neymar, the man whose name adorns a million shirts.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT
Brazil v Germany kicks off at 21:00 BST on Tuesday. The winner of that will meet the victor in Wednesday’s semi-final between Argentina and the Netherlands at the same kick-off time in Sunday’s huge final. Just how hot the atmosphere inside the Maracana is for the showpiece fixture of course depends on whether the hosts participate. And if they do, could Neymar actually make an appearance thanks to a painkiller injection?
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- James Rodriguez