Brazil win ugly as Neymar ruled out of World Cup

Playmaker suffers broken vertebra, with Thiago Silva also ruled out of Germany semi-final through suspension

Fri, Jul 4, 2014, 23:31

Brazil 2 Colombia 1

It was a supremely ugly win for Brazil, but one they will have been delighted with before the crushing news that Neymar, the player they most rely upon, will play no further part in the tournament after he suffered a fractured vertebra.
With Thiago Silva also ruled out of next Tuesday’s semi-final against Germany in Belo Horizonte after picking up a second yellow card here, the hosts will be without their two most important players just when they needed them most. 
It was a bad end to what had been a surprisingly trouble-free night. For once in this World Cup the experience of playing in front of a raucous home crowd was a help rather than a hindrance, as a bafflingly timid display by referee Carlos Carballo helped them outmuscle a Colombia side that looked every inch quarter-final first-timers – or at least unwelcome guests.

With 10 minutes left James Rodriguez scored his sixth goal of the tournament from the penalty spot after Julio Cesar had taken down substitute Carlos Bacca, and so the end of the game was played out in a cauldron of nervousness, as Colombia attacked freely and Brazil were knocked back on their heels. Juan Cuadrado and Adrian Ramos came close with headers, but Brazil’s two goals had been enough.

It took Carballo more than an hour to book a player, and by that stage, after a highly promising and open first half, the game had become nasty and fractious from repeated fouling. That pattern suited Brazil far better, their muscularity effectively neutralising Colombia’s creative talents. The irony in the end, of course, was that in the most physical part of the contest it was Neymar who suffered most.

Although he got on the scoresheet, it was a difficult night for Rodriguez, who was repeatedly fouled and then had the indignity of being booked after giving away the 68th-minute free kick from which David Luiz gave Brazil the two-goal advantage. It was Rodriguez’s tears, rather than Brazil’s for a change, that told a story at full-time, and it was a touching sight to see Luiz and his team-mates console the youngster on the pitch.

The quirkiest statistic going around – and also a telling one – was that the last time Colombia beat Brazil, 23 years ago, Rodriguez was one day old. José Pekerman has been widely praised for giving this generation confidence – even reminding them to “have fun”, Juan Zuniga had suggested – and Colombia’s sense of wellbeing had been enhanced by just one defeat in 16 matches.

Nonetheless, this was their first World Cup quarter-final appearance, against the hosts, who they had only beaten twice in their history. And the crowd in Fortaleza was manic, starting with an incredible noise in the warm-up by Brazil’s goalkeepers a full 50 minutes before kick-off, and featuring some pantomime booing at the mention of Rodriguez.

All told, the last thing Colombia needed was to give the home side the momentum of an early lead. And quite a soft one it was too. A quick Fernandinho pass forward left Cristian Zapata exposed one-on-one with Neymar, and the goal came from the corner he was forced to concede. Neymar whipped it in, the ball just missed the top of Luiz’s head, but Thiago Silva was running in at the back post to steer it home.

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