Brazil survived a physical battle with Colombia to move within two victories of raising the World Cup trophy on home soil. Alas, the losses suffered in the match, highlighted by the tournament-ending injury to Neymar, will likely be too much to overcome in the semifinals against Germany.
While the loss of Neymar unsurprisingly dominated the headlines, the Selecao will also be without captain Thiago Silva due to his second yellow card of the event. The veteran defender is a crucial member of a back line that's enjoyed a strong tournament.
Being without perhaps the team's two most important players for a match against a side the caliber of Germany creates a massive challenge for the host nation.
The importance of Neymar was one of the main talking points leading up to the World Cup. His success leading the Brazil attack was always going to play a vital role in determining whether the Selecao could return to the top of the international football world.
Prior to the injury, he had lived up to the hype. The Barcelona star scored four goals and added an assist in five matches while attracting a massive amount of attention from opposing defenders.
Then late in the quarterfinal he collided with Colombia defender Juan Camilo Zuniga. He went down in pain and tests would later reveal a back injury that would prevent him from playing again during the World Cup.
ESPN UK provided the details:
The forward was involved in a late collision with Colombia's Juan Camilo Zuniga in the 88th minute and will not be available when Brazil face Germany in the semi-final on Tuesday, or for the final on July 13, should Brazil advance.
Team doctor Rodrigo Lasmar said Neymar broke the third vertebra in the lumbar region of his back.
The announcement wasn't a shock given the amount of agony Neymar was in as he got carried off the pitch. Yet, it was still a major disappointment for the Brazilian squad and the huge group of supporters that's cheered them on every step of the way.
German midfielder Mesut Ozil was among those to send out a message of support:
Neymar, i am unhappy. get well soon.— Mesut Özil (@MesutOzil1088) July 5, 2014
The playmaker and his teammates will enjoy not having to defend the dynamic forward in the semifinals. Nobody likes to see such a marquee player go down at this stage of a major tournament, though. That's especially true given Neymar's role as the host nation's biggest star.
Then there's the case of Silva.
The central defender was shown a yellow card just after the hour mark for running into Colombian goalkeeper David Ospina as he attempted to clear the ball. He had previously scored the match's opening goal inside the first 10 minutes.
Since Silva had received a yellow in the scoreless draw with Mexico during the group stage, he's automatically sidelined for one game. It means head coach Luiz Felipe Scolari will be forced to replace him alongside David Luiz, a partnership that was working very well.
Joe Wright of Goal passed along comments Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho made to Spanish outlet Marca. He stated the Silva loss was at least equally important to Brazil:
Brazil need Neymar because he is a player who can win one-on-one situations, cause imbalance in opponents, score goals and is fantastic with set-pieces.
But I would say that, probably, Thiago Silva is as or more important than Neymar at this moment.
His will be an important absence because Brazil are based on that defensive structure. It's how Thiago gives great stability to the team.
Replacing either Neymar or Silva would have been a difficult task. Being without both at this stage of the tournament could prove impossible to overcome against Germany.
In terms of replacements, "Big Phil" will probably choose between Willian and Bernard to fill Neymar's role on the wing. He could also switch to more of a 4-4-2 look by inserting Jo alongside Fred, but having the extra striker available off the bench has been the preferred approach so far.
Can Brazil advance without Neymar or Silva?
At the back, Henrique would seem to have the inside track on a starting spot after coming on late against Colombia to help secure the victory. The one advantage Dante holds is playing in Germany with Bayern Munich, experience that could prove valuable in facing the Mannschaft.
They are tough decisions because the players asked to step in won't just be trying to replace key members of the squad. They will be trying to do that in the World Cup semifinals on home turf, simply adding to the already immense pressure.
Ultimately, Scolari could end up making the right choices and there's still a good chance Brazil ends up falling short. Germany has played very well throughout the tournament despite some lackluster finishing at times. It should be viewed as the favorite without Neymar and Silva on the field.
Brazil has fended off danger quite frequently throughout the tournament. It started with an escape in the opener against Croatia thanks to a controversial penalty call and continued right through the quarterfinal with Colombia, which featured plenty of tension over the final 10 minutes.
The Selecao found a way to advance, but the cost of that win may be more than they are capable of overcoming against Germany.