The 2014 World Cup has been rough on host Brazil. However, Brazil finally seemed to have it easy to start the World Cup quarterfinals on July 4, as it went up early on Columbia and likely should have been up by more. But although the match ultimately ended with the Brazilians advancing by 2-1, no one was celebrating after Neymar suffered the fractured vertebra heard around the soccer world.
Brazil was already on edge by the time Neymar was kneed in the back by Juan Camilo Zuniga in the 88'th minute. Just over 20 minutes early, everything was finally going perfectly for the hosts, after they put Columbia down by 2-0. Yet James Rodriguez gave the Columbians a lifeline with a penalty kick goal in the 80'th minute.
Neymar had been relatively quiet in the match, save for booting the corner kick that led to Thiago Silva's opening goal in the seventh minute. But he was put back in the limelight in the worst way, with an injury that didn't require surgery but will require him to miss the rest of the World Cup. What's worse, it came after Silva got his second yellow card of the tournament and got himself suspended for the semifinals.
Without Silva or Neymar, Brazil has suddenly become far more vulnerable against Germany in the semifinals, not to mention potential final opponents Argentina and the Netherlands -- if the Brazilians even get that far. Despite home field advantage, this World Cup has been difficult for the hosts at almost every turn, although losing Neymar takes it to unprecedented levels.
But since Brazil was eliminated from the World Cup quarterfinals in 2006 and 2010, making it to the semifinals is still a step up. If the Brazilians can bend without breaking for two more matches, they will lift their sixth championship in front of their fans after all -- although it will now become their more improbable title yet if they do.
Meanwhile, Columbia exits the World Cup after the deepest run in its history, while Rodriguez is now almost certain to end the tournament as its highest scorer with six goals. Nevertheless, Brazil was the big winner on this night -- on the scoreboard if nowhere else.
The Brazilians have three days to mourn Neymar before facing the Germans on Tuesday, July 8.