Neymar's exit dampens party

[BRAZIL 2014] Through 57 games, the 2014 World Cup was a gem. The best of our lifetime. What more could you have asked for? Great goals. Great saves. And end-to-end drama.

And then came Match 58.

Brazil-Colombia should have been one of the tournament's best games -- the inventors of jogo bonito against the new darlings of South America -- but it was ill-tempered affair.

Brazil advanced to the semifinals with a 2-1 win but paid a heavy price as Neymar was lost for the tournament with a fractured vertebra.

The incident came in the 87th minute with the Cafeteros pressing for an equalizer after having closed the margin to 2-1 six minutes. As a loose ball off a Colombian corner kick came to Neymar with his back to the Colombian goal, Colombian defender Juan Camilo Zuniga came flying in and stuck his knee into the small of Neymar’s back. Play was waived on as the Brazilians ran off on a counterattack, but when it was stopped shortly thereafter, no yellow card or red card was issued by referee Carlos Velasco Carballo.

By then, the Spaniard had long since lost control of the match.

Velasco whistled 54 fouls in the match -- 31 for Brazil and 23 for Colombia -- the most of the World Cup. But the most important number to remember is 41. It wasn't until the 41st foul in the 64th minute that Velasco reached for his pocket and issued a yellow card to Brazil captain Thiago Silva for running into Colombian keeper David Ospina as he went to kick the ball as he attempted to kick the ball to start a quick counterattack.

Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari was incredulous that Thiago Silva was issued a card that will keep him out of the semifinals against Germany but no card was not issued on Zuniga.

"Everyone knows Neymar was going to be hunted," he said.

Zuniga said all he was doing was shadowing Neymar.

"I was not thinking of hurting him," he said afterwards. "I was defending my country's colors."

All throughout the tournament, Neymar had been harassed. His 18 fouls suffered are the second most in the tournament behind only 21 Greece's Georgios Samaras. Neymar often went down acrobatically, sometimes after being fouled, other times not. He was injured early in the Chile match and was in doubt for the Colombia match.

Most Fouls Suffered:
21 Georgios Samaras, Greece
18 Neymar, Brazil
12 James Rodriguez, Colombia
12 Luiz Gustavo, Brazil
11 Jermaine Jones, USA

But Neymar wasn't the only hunted player in Fortaleza. Early in the first half, Brazilian Fernandinho took out Colombian star James Rodriguez with a body block. Winger Juan Cuadrado and James were each fouled six times. Cuadrado was totally ineffectual, while James was so rattled he needlessly fouled Hulk midway through the second half, drawing the first Colombian yellow card. James was incredulous, pointing one finger at Velasco as if to say it was only his first foul.

The Brazilians got the last laugh as on the ensuing free kick David Luiz dropped a "folha seca" past Ospina from 30 yards for what proved to be the winning goal.

Already in the round of 16, Brazil's game against Chile was an incident-filled match with 51 fouls -- 28 for Brazil and 23 for Chile -- and seven yellow cards. Colombian coach Jose Pekerman blamed the pressure on the Brazilians as hosts for the trouble on Friday.

"Brazil needed to win the game," he said. "There was a lot of intensity and that interrupted the game."

Pekerman, who is Argentine, said both teams had good players, and their competitive raised the friction.

"It is not wise to play a game like this," he said, "but the tension was very high."

Colombia is going home, while Brazil moves on to the semifinals against Germany Tuesday in Belo Horizonte. As the news filtered out from the hospital in Fortaleza, where fans gathered and shouted, "Forca Neymar" ("Be strong, Neymar") fans wondered if Brazil could win the World Cup without Neymar, who had scored four of Brazil's 10 goals.

They were reminded that the only other time Brazil won the World Cup in South America was in 1962 in Chile, where it did it without Pele, who was injured in the second game and did not play for the rest of the tournament.

Whether the 2014 Brazil team has the same supporting cast to win the World Cup, we'll find out soon enough.
15 comments about "Neymar's exit dampens party".
  1. Jordan Thompson , July 5, 2014 at 8:08 a.m.

    Brutal cowardly foul. The player should be banned.

  2. Alan Melgarejo, July 5, 2014 at 8:34 a.m.

    This Brazil doing from the start of the game. At the confederations cup against Spain the choose to tactically become a physical chippy team fouling when ever the other team touched the ball. Against Spain they chopped down all players after the ball had left as Spain usually plays one touch. Scolari chose this way to play which is not what I consider the Brazilian way but I guess he knows that
    his team is not able to play a high level techincal game so this is the best chance for Brazil to win a world cup. Yesterday's game they use the same tactics against Colombia fouling as much as possible to take players off their game and put the pressure on the referee to make calls against the home team. If the referee yellow card Brazil for the persistent fouling the game would have been based on skill for the rest of the night but he let Brazil run wild. If you watched Brazil for the last two years and this World Cup they play like a pub/bar team now. They and the referee are responsible for this injury and Colombia and they previous teams Brazil played are the victims here. But I guess if it wins a world cup Scolari and Brazil will pat themselves on the back. I am no longer a fan of Brazil and they can't use the logo of the beautiful game anymore not with this team and coach.

  3. Kent James, July 5, 2014 at 8:41 a.m.

    Given that both teams have such skilled players, this was an ugly game. Hacking, diving, complaining to the referee. While it was a difficult game to ref, the ref made it more difficult by not issuing cards. At lower levels of officiating, refs are sometimes hesitant to issue cards (to avoid paperwork? Because a game without cards must have been a smooth game?), but at this level, most refs are good at using cards to control the game. For whatever reason, this ref did not. Very unfortunate.

  4. Dan Eckert, July 5, 2014 at 8:41 a.m.

    I agree with Alan - but in as one additional thought - Brasil didn't do themselves any favors by being the #1 Floppers in the tournament. No one deserves to be hunted and fouled - but when a breeze blows them over and the flop on the ground like a fish - the game is tarnished. I hope Neymar recovers quickly - but more importantly - I hope all teams stop this flopping behavior.

  5. Joe Linzner, July 5, 2014 at 8:43 a.m.

    you play ugly you reap ugly...

  6. Ginger Peeler, July 5, 2014 at 10:49 a.m.

    The ref lost control of the game early on. We all saw the same fouling, that deserved at least a yellow, again and again by the same players when they realized the ref wasn't going to call them. By the time he handed out that first yellow, it was like a no-holds-barred game. Did you catch the look of amazement on the faces of the carded players for doing the same thing they'd been doing throughout the game? When my kids took their referee classes, they were told that their FIRST duty is to protect the players, and to keep a special eye out for the better players because opposing teams tended to foul them more frequently. Sometimes a lot. The referee was in way over his head, but the men on the field were the ones who paid for his ineptness. He won't be whistling any more games in this World Cup, but the damage (literally) has already been done.

  7. David V, July 5, 2014 at 11:08 a.m.

    Alan Melgarejo and Dan Eckert - Great comments... First, sorry Neymar is injured, as any other player, on any other team, I would NOT wish that to happen... Paul Kennedy's comments are pretty amateurish...Neymar is the flop king and probably has only been fouled (truly) in half the number Paul quoted. This IS an ugly Brazilian team... the quality of these teams are not as good as in previous cups... these are all mediocre teams in this cup, compared to past cups...thank the Spanish for bringing back attacking creative futbol (great comments from the great Brazilian Tostao on why this tournament has been so much better), they helped bring things back from the ultra defensive approach to the game, the anti-football as Cruyff calls it. Certainly the ref in this game was nowhere near as bad as Howard Webb was in the final in 2010, when 3 clear red cards should have been issued to the Dutch in the first quarter of the game (no one can forget the most infamous-- De Jong's Kung Fu kick to Xabi Alonso's chest). It is ridiculous, in the name of getting the game to be played ("to get on with it", or to "not have the ref influence the game") for Refs NOT to issue cards when they are warranted... if a team warrants 3 red cards in 15 minutes, so be it... it is the offending team that destroys the game, not the referee when he hands out a card (justly)... and we'd hope that, giving out the cards, would actually HELP the flow of the game, for players' fear of not getting thrown out. If the Dutch went down to 9 players on World Cup Final day 2010, too bad for them... Brazil is NOT the football nation they once were, the beautiful creativity has long been gone with them too (oh there is an occasional skill piece here and there) but they're more brutish than ever before, Scolari's approach, his pompous, arrogant approach, and the vitriolic fans in Brazil makes me long for the days of the 1970 Brasil team and it's fans... now recongnized as the 2nd greatest team of all time, that '70 was a thing of beauty, no flops, no hacks, pure skill, joy, pizzazz... the fans were beautiful then too in Brasil...miss the Zicos, and the Falcaos, and the Socrates and that era too... I'd even settle for the Rivaldo, Dinho, Ronaldo era... but this last decade in Brasil has been an ugly one. I have been enjoying this cup for some of the late drama in games... but ALL teams are mediocre on an historical comparison... Loved the emergence of James... Argentina's 4 horseman (Messia, Kun, Angel, Higuain) looks so good on paper... If Germany knock out Brasil, and Argentina knock out Holland, we have a chance for a decent final... from what I've seen, and I've been watching football for almost as long as Gardener around the globe, I think the Germans and the Argentines are the last hopes to make this a truly great cup... sorry to say, I was a fan of Brazil for nearly 5 decades... the lost me this past decace :-(

  8. David V, July 5, 2014 at 11:10 a.m.

    Ginger Peeler, how can you say he won't be whistling any more games in this cup? Look how FIFA has rewarded that horrible Howard Webb (should have been 3 red cards in the final in 2010, and he's back at it here in 2014)... a disgrace

  9. gill agee, July 5, 2014 at 12:47 p.m.

    I also thought this was an ugly soccer match. Agree that Brazil played a very cynical style using their size to their advantage. Ref also allowed blatant infringement by Brazil on one of the free kicks. 2 players charged the ball before the Columbian touched the ball. Everyone wishes Neymar a speedy, full recovery--but for Brazil, you reap what you sew.

  10. Claudio Garcia chamorro, July 5, 2014 at 12:54 p.m.

    Sad for Brasil and very sad for Neymar - a great player. Very very sad for us ... As the WC will now miss a great player !!
    It did not seem as a serious tackle at first !

    Neymar get better man !
    Wishing well and a full recovery !!!

  11. Allan Lindh, July 5, 2014 at 3:07 p.m.

    As ye sew, so shall ye reap. When James received his yellow card he showed the ref four fingers, told him that he had received four yellow card fouls before that, none of which were carded. Brazil came out to play dirty, the ref let it go, did they think there would be no retaliation? Shame on Brazil, shame on the ref, shame on FIFA. Was the ref told beforehand to not show yellows, because so many Brazilians were carrying yellow? Wouldn't want to spoil the TV show, now would we? They all got what they deserved.

  12. I w Nowozeniuk, July 5, 2014 at 3:12 p.m.

    Worst refereed game of the tournament; and might I add this referee was diabolically derelict in his duties to stop the persistent team fouling from the start. The hit on Neymar was malicious, dangerous, and the defender should have been sent off; but this ref swallowed the whistle one more time. He enabled Brazil to rattle the Colombian side, and the game became a bruising free for all and disjointed. This and the diving are two of the most blatant black eyes of this tournament.

  13. soccer talk, July 5, 2014 at 3:50 p.m.

    Great comments Allan and Dan whom summed
    The game up best. It stinks that the world misses
    One of the best for the remaining hot games, Brazil being the host nation and under immense
    Pressure to win bc of its tradition, but more important
    The unrestfullness with state is economical affairs
    Leading into this must win Cup. Instead of a "beautiful" display we saw them answer the
    Unrestfull fans w/ physical, thug affair that continuously slowed down an exciting open
    Attacking game from the whistle. The ref (maybe pressured by FIFA?) held the cards in pocket
    Way too long for persistent fouling. In the end
    The Brazilians will now suffer w/out their Star
    Because of the game plan that they chose to follow.

  14. Ginger Peeler, July 5, 2014 at 4:35 p.m.

    David, I meant no more games in this 2014 WC. I agree with you regarding Webb. Perhaps he's improved in the last 4 years? All the refs went through very strenuous training and tests. I find the idea that some people are claiming that FIFA is dictating how games will be whistled to be very disturbing. If that's true, then there's not much point in watching the games. I would like to see our ref, Mark Geiger, get another game. He was superb with his first two games, then acted as the 4th referee in a third. He whistled a round of 16 game, but came under criticism afterward from one of the coaches. So, we'll see.

  15. TK TK, July 8, 2014 at 10:01 a.m.

    Go after FIFA!!! Its their falut. They instruct the refs to favor certain teams like Brazil. Scolari knows this and tells his team to hit first and hard on every tackle knowing refs will be harsher on opponents than them. Zuniga resorted to only thing left to do in that situation out of frustration. I am 100% sure he did not intend to breal Neymar's back. I am sure FIFA didnt know their tactics were going to backfire like this in taking out one of the tournaments biggest and more importantly upcoming stars. I hate to say it but maybe this is neccesary so FIFA can just let things happen naturally. Pick the best refs in the world so they can manipuate them?? Now nonfavorite teams know what to do if FIFA pulls this shit off again. And if there is any doubt FIFA is coordinating the whole thing look at Brazil's all 5 games so far. Look at all the fouls called and yellow cards. Look at the very first game vs Croatia and Chile who are the more obviously one sided called games. Now look at Netherlands games vs Mexico and Costa Rica. Both cheated big time. Maybe Robben should have been taken out too so Fifa really gets the bigger picture.

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