Brazil fails to exorcise ghosts of 2014
Four years after the psychodrama of Neymar’s injury and a humiliating World Cup semifinal defeat as hosts, Brazil is forced to come to terms with the crushing disappointment of a failed mission in Russia.
It had come to the World Cup determined to confirm its revival following the 7-1 humiliation at the hands of Germany in Belo Horizonte, and there were plenty of reasons for optimism.
With Germany, Spain and Argentina out, and Italy not even at the party, the path looked to be clearing for Brazil to go and win their sixth title.
But instead, Tite’s side came a cropper the first time it faced another of the contenders, Belgium.
In the four World Cups since the Selecao won the 2002 tournament in Japan and South Korea, it has been eliminated thrice in the quarterfinals.
Everybody consoled themselves that a fit Neymar would be at his peak to lead a new assault for the title on Russian soil.
Neymar was fit here, but only just. Brazil’s build-up to the tournament was dominated by his battle to recover from an operation on a broken bone in his foot.
He goes home after scoring just two goals, his greatest impact on this World Cup being his tears against Costa Rica and, above all, his theatrics.
Neymar’s response to supposed rough treatment from opposition defenders has been met with ridicule in certain quarters, and sympathy may be in short supply.
That even applies back home — “Sublime genius or pathetic farce?” read one headline, in weekly magazine Epoca.
He goes the way of fellow superstars Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, although he will still be just 30 by the time the next World Cup comes around in Qatar in 2022.
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