Friday at the World Cup, we saw Brazilian star Neymar get severely injured and ruled out of action for the remainder of the cup. We also saw two incredible games, and neither was so because it was well-played one.
Neymar was injured on a play that saw Colombian defender Juan Zuniga, intentionally knee the Brazilian striker in the back in action that did not even earn a foul from Spanish referee Carlos Velasco Carballo.
The injury was so severe that the player had to be rushed directly from the stadium to a hospital for tests. Test results showed that Neymar had a broken vertebra and will miss the rest of the World Cup and probably up to two months of the next La Liga season, barring a remarkable recovery. The only good news is that the injury is not career ending.
The day’s games were not pretty and produced mostly forgettable football with a few highlights sprinkled in. In the first match, Germany-France, a seventh minute score by Germany’s Mats Hummels deflated the French to such an extent that they never recuperated for the rest of the match. A team which had scored ten goals in four previous matches could barely get a handful of shots on goal throughout the entire game.
To compound the negative, French coach, Didier Deschamps, who needed offensive creativity once the second half began with his team behind 0-1, substituted his one creative player for another striker deep into the second half, that exchange, and the ones that followed were not what the team needed and the timing of the substitutions made them meaningless.
In the second match, a foul-strewn game that had 27 fouls before halftime, or one every minute and forty seconds, degenerated into a near melee of an encounter thanks to referee Carballo who simply could not get himself to give out any cards no matter the gravity of the infraction. A clumsy early goal for Brazil kept the game interesting as the better team, Colombia, had to fight for an equalizer.
Just before that goal came, via the feet of James Rodriguez, David Luiz scored a 35-yard folha seca (dry leaf) free kick that was perhaps the tournament’s best free kick goal. The 2-0 advantage ensured the Colombian goal did nothing to change the tenor or outcome of the match and Brazil advanced. But they did so in as costly a manner as possible. In the next match they will meet the strongest team in the tournament, Germany, and the Brazilians will have to play without their two best players, Thiago Silva and Neymar.
Unfortunately, the bad surprises also keep coming in this cup and today the added twist was Neymar’s scary injury. The cup will resume tomorrow with two games that could potentially provide further upsets. So far, the only exceptions to the rule of surprises in Brazil have been Germany’s play, Louis van Gaal’s shrewd coaching, and Lionel Messi’s magic. They are distancing themselves as the top contenders of the tournament.
Tomorrow we have Costa Rica playing the Netherlands in Salvador, and the Belgians playing the Argentines in Brasilia. One can only wonder what surprises still lay ahead.