Neymar out of World Cup 2014: Neymar was the essence of the team. Without him, they are left seeking a miracle

Bellos on Brazil: The country is in shock, the brief mood of celebration that Brazil had reached a semi-final for the first time since 2002 has become one of sadness and anger

Even when their national team is underperforming – which, most people agree, has been for most this World Cup – Brazilians have comforted themselves with knowledge that they have Neymar.

“He is the only Brazil player who can decide games on his own,” Rai, Brazil’s 1994 World Cup veteran, told me a few weeks ago. The entire country knew, he added, that Brazil’s only chance of winning the tournament lay with Neymar. The view that the 22-year-old would “sort it out” became the mantra of the Brazilian fans.

Now Neymar will miss the rest of the tournament with a fractured spine. The country is in shock. The brief mood of celebration that Brazil had reached a World Cup semi-final for the first time since 2002 has become one of sadness and anger.

Video: Neymar's message to fans

“To lose your best player, the only trump card that the team has to beat its enemies, was not part of anyone’s script. Not even in the most pessimistic of predictions,” wrote Luiz Antonio Prosperi, sports editor of the Estado de S. Paulo yesterday. “Without Neymar, the Seleção will have to reinvent itself, to look for a new path. But there isn’t anyone in Scolari’s group with a lamp to light the way.”

Neymar’s injury has become a national tragedy, overshadowing all other World Cup coverage. Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s president, tweeted after Friday’s game: “Like all of Brazil, I’m rooting for our great player to get better #ForçaNeymar”. She tweeted support for Neymar two more times that evening.


ForçaNeymar – be strong Neymar – was yesterday still the top trending topic on Twitter. The second was #FIFAOCamisa18daColombiaMereceSerPunido, which translates as Fifa Colombia’s number 18 deserves to be punished.

Yet the sadness that Brazilians feel about the loss of Neymar is not only because he is their best player. It is also because of the type of player he is. With his improvisational guile, flamboyant skills and playful nature, he is the only one of the current generation that reminds Brazilians of their past greats.

Read more: Can Brazil win the World Cup without Neymar?
Neymar ruled out of World Cup
Zuniga joins illustrious list of public enemies

“Neymar is what Brazilian football should be, the football of kickabouts with friends, the football of people who play like they are having fun – who have a happiness with the ball,” said the filmmaker Walter Carvalho. “Neymar is the most recent and, currently, the only expression of this type of football, which is all about creative shortcuts, not straight lines, and that’s what is beautiful about it.”

The absence of Neymar is doubly sad because of the realization that even if Brazil are still in the tournament, the team is not so “Brazilian” any more. Looking towards Tuesday’s semi-final against Germany, the mood is bleak. A confidence that Brazil had a great chance to win the World Cup, even though they had not played as well as expected, has been replaced with pessimism. The overwhelming feeling is that to get to the final, let alone win a record sixth title, is now a “mission impossible”.

Juan Camilo Zuniga challenges Neymar Juan Camilo Zuniga challenges Neymar Writing in the Folha de S. Paulo, the columnist Juca Kfouri said: “The Germans aren’t just favourites, it’ll be a cinch for them. The fans that go to Belo Horizonte on Tuesday know they will be going hoping for a miracle.”

The ESPN pundit Antero Greco was also glum: “I don’t think that fighting spirit will be sufficient against Germany. It can get things going, but it’s not everything.” 

Read more: Fifa selected lenient referees for quarter-finals
Crowds gather outside hospital to support Neymar
Zuniga defends challenge on Neymar

Yet some were desperately trying to find silver linings, such as Paulo Vinicius Coelho: “It’s worth remembering that the Germans are always terrified of playing Brazil.”

Many Brazilians were also remembering what happened in the 1962 World Cup, where Pelé got injured and was replaced by his understudy Amarildo. Brazil went on to win the tournament.

Tostão, who played alongside Pelé in 1970 and whose daily column is indispensible reading, wrote: “It is sad to be without Thiago Silva, and, especially, Neymar at this crucial time. It is possible that the team overcomes the difficulties, that a saviour appears like Amarildo did in 1962, when Brazil didn’t have Pelé. If Brazil wins the World Cup this time it will be even more heroic. But if it loses, there is already a convenient excuse.”

Neymar is Brazil’s most popular player, especially adored by children, and his face is ubiquitous on magazine covers, newspaper adverts, street billboards and TV ad breaks. These images will haunt Brazil over the next few days.

Life and Style
Divers at Bouldnor Cliff underwater site in the Solent off the Isle of Wight, where the silt sample containing the einkorn DNA was found
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower