On a day when the sports headlines should have been celebrating Brazil’s quarter-final win over Colombia, the entire world is talking about the injury of star man Neymar.
Brazil’s 2-1 victory was overshadowed by the loss of their talisman, who was stretchered out towards the closing stages of Friday’s win. As per Charles Reynolds of The Independent, doctors confirmed that a broken vertebra will rule him out for the remainder of the tournament.
The 22-year-old had entered the tournament with the weight of a nation on his shoulders but had responded well, netting four goals in five appearances and receiving a higher average match rating (via WhoScored.com) than any of his compatriots. Neymar had been his country’s best attacking threat by a distance, and his absence will certainly be felt in Tuesday’s clash with Germany.
However, it is the absence of captain Thiago Silva that could come back to haunt the Selecao in that epic showdown.
The Paris Saint-Germain man is widely regarded as one of the best central defenders in world football and has certainly showed his credentials at this summer’s tournament. Despite the fact Brazil have conceded in all but one of their five World Cup matches, Silva has been a rock at the heart of their defence.
Furthermore, in a match when his country needed a hero, Silva answered the call. The Selecao captain gave his country the perfect start to Friday’s crucial clash with Colombia by converting Neymar’s corner to open the scoring after just seven minutes in Fortaleza.
That goal would’ve helped settle Brazilian nerves, but they still very much needed their skipper to be at his best in order to thwart the Colombia fightback. Silva was a monster for Brazil, making 14 clearances (h/t George Sessions of Metro) during the course of the game to drag the hosts through to Tuesday’s semi-final meeting with Germany.
Silva was in inspired form throughout, and a spectacular piece of defending halfway through the first-half to stop a three-on-one Colombia attack epitomised the 29-year-old’s importance to this team.
Unfortunately, though, the PSG man picked up a reckless booking just after the hour mark to earn himself a devastating one-game suspension. The Brazil No. 3 needlessly challenged Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina, who was still in possession of the ball, to give referee Carlos Velasco Carballo no choice but to produce the critical yellow card.
It was a moment of madness from the Brazil man and could come back to bite both him and his country as they prepare to take on Germany.
In the absence of Neymar, Brazil’s attacking threat will see a drastic decline and therefore Luiz Felipe Scolari’s defensive unit must be at its very best against the Germans. Unfortunately, Silva’s suspension makes that a much taller ask for the Selecao.
For all of his strengths, David Luiz is a central defender who is prone to a lapse in concentration. Without Silva to guide him, Friday’s match-winner could struggle to cope with the threat of Germany’s lethal strikers.
Silva’s replacement is likely to be Dante. Like Luiz, the Bayern Munich man isn’t free from committing stupid errors, and these could have decisive ramifications against Joachim Low’s side. The fact that Silva's deputy hasn't played a single minute at this year's tournament will be another cause for concern.
Brazilian fans will be understandably worried about their makeshift central pairing. Scolari may have famously led the country to its record-breaking fifth World Cup title in 2002 but he faces a real dilemma in preparing his team for the challenge ahead.
Make no mistake, Neymar’s injury will have a catastrophic impact on Brazil’s chances of lifting a sixth World Cup trophy on July 13, but it is the absence of Silva that will hit the Selecao the hardest.
Without their talisman, the hosts will need a leader on the pitch to drag them through Tuesday’s immensely difficult challenge. Silva would have been the man to lead them to success, but with that lifeline being severed it may be a step too far for Scolari’s men.
It’s hardly been vintage Brazil at this year’s finals, but you have to commend them for navigating their way to this stage. An entire nation has anticipated nothing less than another title, and up until now the route has gone to plan, even if the performances haven’t.
Without their influential skipper, Brazil’s World Cup adventure could be about to come to a shuddering end.