Brazil Breaks the Dream of Colombia
Brazil Breaks the Dream of Colombia
Face down in his own end, Brazil's Neymar briefly raised his head before crying out in pain. One of the world's best players was moving -- a good sign -- but that didn't prevent an eerie hush from falling over Estadio Castelao late in the game.
They'd just watch Colombian defender Juan Zuniga recklessly put a knee into Neymar's lower back, dropping the 22-year-old to the pitch with a fractured vertebrae that just dropped Brazil's World Cup odds into a ditch.
Despite advancing following a 2-1 quarterfinal win here Friday night, Brazil bench boss Luiz Felipe Scolari opened his post-game talk by criticizing teams that have targeted this country's star player.
"Everyone knew Neymar was going to be hunted," Scolari said.
It was expected in the Round of 16 against Chile, a game that saw Neymar drilled countless times before Scolari blasted the officiating. The opposite was expected here Friday night. Prior to the match, Scolari insisted a quarterfinal date against Colombia would be full of love and doves.
"Our wars are against Chile, Uruguay and Argentina," Scolari said, promising an entertaining, all South American fixture. "We don't have wars with Colombia. They are happy matches."
Now, a match that was supposed to be joyous has produced a casualty.
54 fouls later -- the most conceded between any two teams at this World Cup -- Scolari's star player was taken to hospital, along with the prayers of a nation that worships their No. 10.
"He was crying out in pain," Scolari told reporters. "It won't be easy for him to recover based on what the doctor told us." Zuniga's challenge capped an ugly night of soccer that saw two of the better sides in the tournament produce a howler.
There were small moments, yes, but the final 60 minutes of this match left so much to be desired, especially after Brazil-Chile produced fireworks in the last round.
"The good players (for both teams) couldn't find continuity," Colombia head coach Jose Pekerman said. "We lost the fluidity of the game. "The tension was very high ... In every play there was a lot of intensity. That interrupted the game."
There was nothing of quality from the run of play, either.
Brazil's Thiago Silva brought the 60,342 in attendance to life when he was left all alone at the back door to finish off a corner before the 10-minute mark. With Colombia failing to produce much of anything going forward, Brazil's Hulk had his best game of the tournament, coming close on two occasions.
The Brazilian big body danced along the left edge of the area twice before the half-hour mark before having his tight-angle efforts pushed away by Colombian 'keeper David Ospina. Heading into the half, it wasn't just Scolari who had complaints about his play-maker. Colombian wonder kid James Rodriguez, the Golden Boot leader after adding to his total, was roughed up throughout the opening 45 minutes.
Brazil's centre back pairing of David Luiz and Silva were fantastic all night, snuffing out everything in the air and most of the balls played to Rodriguez when his back was to goal.
"I believe Brazil was always worried about our players," Pekerman said post-game, describing the match as a cagey affair. "The most important thing for them is winning and moving forward. You can always improve."
Colombia thought it had found and equalizer in the 66th minute when off a restart, the ball fell to Mario Yepes inside the area before the Colombia captain scored in traffic. But the flag was up as replays showed multiple Colombian players were in an offside position when the free kick was taken.
In a cruel game of up and down swings, Luiz struck a knuckling restart from distance minutes later that beat Ospina to double Brazil's lead.
"This is a very hard moment for us," Pekerman said. "We always had the dream of being able to win this match. Knowing Brazil would be tough, we never stopped dreaming."
Those dreams were extended 10 minutes from time when Julio Cesar brought down Carlos Bacca inside the area, allowing Rodriguez convert the ensuing penalty to give the Colombians a lifeline.
"After being absent from a World Cup for a long time, I believe Colombia went a long way to reassess the country," Pekerman said. With Brazil firmly planted in its own half after Neymar was stretchered out of the venue, the Colombians never really threatened to force extra time.
An ill-fated restart in stoppage time for Colombia wasn't converted, bringing an end to a fixture that didn't feature the "happy," if not peaceful brand of soccer we were promised.
"Nobody believed we'd pass the Round of 16," Scolari said, never passing up an opportunity to lash out at the press.
"We did. Our players have skills. We do this with dedication. Based on what we've seen, we knew Germany was in our path to get to the final." Before Friday's quarterfinal, Brazil's squad was blasted for displaying too much emotion. After beating the Chileans in a heart-stopping shootout, multiple players wept.
Now, courtesy a late shot to Neymar's spine, a match that was supposed to be peaceful has produced tears that go beyond the dressing room as this country's star will no longer take part.
SILVA’S STUPID CARD
Even the world's best have mindless moments. With Brazil's Neymar already out for the remainder of the tournament, the team's captain, Thiago Silva, will also miss next week's semifinal against Germany.
The Brazilian centre back had the bright idea of kicking the ball out of Colombian 'keeper David Ospina's hands just as he was about to launch a ball forward late in the match -- a yellow card offence.