No Neymar, no party for Brazil

2014-07-05 15:15
Neymar (AFP)

Fortaleza - The hangover from a Soccer World Cup quarter-final win over Colombia was a little more potent than Brazil expected as it awoke on Saturday still dealing with the news star striker Neymar will play no further part in the tournament.

The 22-year-old suffered a broken vertebrae in the 2-1 win over Los Cafeteros in Fortaleza in Friday, meaning there will be no Hollywood ending for Brazil's poster boy come the Maracana final next Sunday.

Whether Brazil even make it to their ball is a greater worry for most of a 200 million strong nation that expected to crown their party with a sixth World Cup victory.

Next up lies the daunting task of a Germany side in the semi-finals on Tuesday that showed its class with a comfortable 1-0 win over France in Friday's other quarter-final.

Moreover, Luiz Felipe Scolari's men will have to face the Germans not only without their chief goalscorer, but also their captain as Thiago Silva received his second yellow card of the tournament against Colombia ruling him out through suspension.

Ultimately, Brazil have been served a severe dose of their own medicine. In a match which contained the most fouls of any so far in the tournament with 54, the hosts were the principal aggressors committing 31.

James Rodriguez was the main target for Scolari's scything tactics. Three times Manchester City's Fernandinho left his mark on the Monaco man in the first-half with the only punishment a free-kick awarded by Spanish referee Carlos Velasco Carballo.

"Unfortunately, the referee didn't help a lot," bemoaned James, whose sixth goal in five games from the penalty spot proved no more than a consolation to Silva and David Luiz's earlier strikes.

However, the moment for which the match will be remembered came two minutes from time when Juan Zuniga clattered Neymar in the back in his over exuberant rush to win the ball back deep inside the Brazil half.

As Oscar led a Brazilian counter-attack, Neymar remained prone on the ground and could only be removed via a stretcher.

In the bowels of the Estadio Castelao immediately post-match, Scolari complained that Neymar had been "hunted" for three games in a row.

Scolari's initial fears were confirmed soon after by Brazilian team doctor Rodrigo Lasmar that far from leading his country to glory, Neymar now has the ignominy of becoming just one more suffering fan.

"Play for him" urged Brazilian sports newspaper Lancenet on Saturday alongside a picture of a stricken Neymar on a stretcher.

However, the question for Scolari now is who does play for him going forward.

A Selecao had been over-reliant on Neymar thanks to the poor form of Fred, who has failed to recover the threat that saw him finish top scorer at last year's Confederations Cup.

Chelsea's Willian or Shakhtar Donetsk's Bernard offer pace and guile, but neither come close to imposing the fear in opposition defences that Neymar's 35 goals in 54 international appearances does.

The other option for Scolari is to beef up his midfield even more by welcoming back Luis Gustavo alongside Fernandinho and Paulinho to bully the Germans and leave them as battered and bruised as the tearful James as he trundled off at full-time in Fortaleza.

Neymar was this Brazilian side's last semblance of Jogo Bonito, the panache that complemented the physicality.

Without him, any success that follows is unlikely to be pretty.

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