Neymar, the perfect personification of the home side Brazil, will need something short of a miracle to participate in a potential final match at the 2014 World Cup.
That is, if his side can move past a loaded German roster that have yet to lose.
Brazil's emotionally-charged 2-1 win over Colombia in the quarterfinals was a hollow triumph, with Neymar's status in doubt after being stretchered off thanks to a spinal injury inflicted by a controversial challenge from Camilo Zuniga (who won't be penalized for his actions).
Little has changed since that point, a point that might just be of the historic variety.
After the Brazilian star was officially diagnosed with a fractured vertebrae, Bleacher Report's Sports Injuries Lead Writer Will Carroll explained that Neymar's ability to return to normal fitness would be quite an uphill battle, after significant time off from the pitch:
Once the fracture heals, it will take some time to return to function. The rest will need to be enforced pretty strictly, making it very difficult to stay near to game fitness. It will not only take time to build that, but Neymar will need to be watched closely to make sure that there is no loss of function. There is almost no way to tell that now or during the rehab process.
Of course, glimmers of hope continue to arise that Neymar could suit up in the home side's kit in some sort of miraculous moment for a group seemingly destined to triumph.
Mike Collett of Reuters was quick to point out a very intriguing historical narrative that surely breathes new life into the sulking nation:
Brazil lost Pele in buildup to 1962 final and still won. I think the same will happen again with Neymar out.— Mike Collett Reuters (@footballmc) July 5, 2014
Yet, most indications point to the fact that Neymar's future career—he is just 22 years old, after all—may be placed in jeopardy if he chooses to return to the pitch in the final.
Paulo Freitas of Sky Sports summed up the situation quite well:
Reg. #Neymar's chances of playing an eventual final, he would need to take painkillers, Globo Esporte reckons chances are small.— Paulo Freitas (@Cynegeticus) July 6, 2014
Brazil FA not certain about having #Neymar play as his movements would not be complete. There are concerns it could slow down full recovery.— Paulo Freitas (@Cynegeticus) July 6, 2014
He can be with the team, yes, but there's no chance he can be on the field. No way. We will not create the illusion of something that does not exist. We have no choice but to not play him. Neymar has an injury which needs to heal. It could seriously risk his recovery if he plays, and jeopardise his career.
Neymar himself, dreams potentially dashed for now, has remained positive in the face of adversity, as captured by Selecao Brasileira:
Neymar: "I wish I could speak more than one language to thank everyone who wished me a speedy recovery. Your messages made it less painful."— Seleção Brasileira (@BrazilStats) July 8, 2014
Of course, for any of the chatter surrounding Neymar at the World Cup to matter, his side will have to move past Germany on Tuesday in a showdown that—on paper—is one worthy of the final.
Before adversity hit the Brazilian roster.
Not only is Neymar out of action, but Thiago Silva will miss the match after picking up his second caution of the tournament against Colombia for blocking netminder David Ospina from taking a kick. That's a major loss, too—he has eight blocked shots and 46 clearances.
Will Brazil prevail against Germany?
To make matters even worse, Neymar's replacement also went down to a back injury, albeit during training the Sunday before the semifinals match. While Willian Borges da Silva had a chance to play the hero role, now his status remains a question mark in the face of the imposing German side.
For a more broad outlook, understand that Neymar led the team in goals (four), shots (18), chances created (13) and attack half touches (241) before his injury. To put his importance into better perspective, also note that the back line has combined for more goals than any player not named Neymar.
Forwards Jo, Fred and Hulk have one combined goal.
Against a German roster deep at every spot that has surrendered just three goals in five matches, the absence of Neymar may leave Brazil out of the tournament earlier than expected with a case of "What could have been."
Should they advance, then the Neymar discussion should get interesting.