World Cup 2014: Could Neymar play in the final? Brazil's doubt and distrust exposed as rumours echo Ronaldo in 1998

The hosts' talisman has been the talk of Brazil since his injury

Sao Paulo

They were talking about it in the bustling street market of Brasilia, behind the capital city’s iconic television tower. And in the arrivals hall of Sao Paulo’s Guarulhos International airport late on Sunday night. “Injecaos,” they said. “Injecaos.”

LIVE: The latest from Brazil vs Germany

The notion of painkilling injections enabling Neymar to rise from his bed like Lazarus to play in Sunday’s World Cup final  – should Brazil win their semi-final – just over a week after fracturing a vertebra, is as far-fetched as things get in football. But the detail was very precise at the weekend. “Infiltration analgesia,” they were calling it, and the story took hold. In Monday's Sao Paulo newspapers, the prospect, first raised by the Globoesport TV network, was being turned over and over.

Read more: Brazil vs Germany match preview
It’s all falling into place for ruthless Germans
Is versatile Lahm the solution to Germany frailties?
Video: Neymar's message to fans

Medical sources from no less a club than Santos – who sold Neymar to Barcelona – were quoted, validating the idea that injections and other alternative treatments could allow him to play. The vertebra which Neymar has fractured is in the best possible place for this treatment, it was said: the third vertebra of the lumbar region of the spine – known as L3, as every other Brazilian now seems to be aware. Neymar, needless to say, wanted the injections. The pain caused by such injuries always dissipates after 48 hours.

The Brazil team doctor Jose Luiz Runco hit back, condemning the “invasive” techniques the whole nation seems to be talking about as “outdated” and “an ancient method”. There was a history of recurring problems for those who used them, he said in Monday’s Folha de  S. Paulo daily. A lesion – damage to the tissue – can become unstable if a football were to hit it, another paper suggested. The risks for Neymar would be severe.


The Brazilian people know, deep down, that this whole notion is madness. Or is it? Their struggle to let go of it belongs to the foolish optimism football can create. But the default mode for Brazilians is also an assumption that the authorities are being dishonest in their public proclamations. That’s because a lot of the authorities here generally are dishonest. It is a country where people shrug about kickbacks and payments for favours given and where the football business, run by the loathed “cartolas” (“top hats”), is seen to be as corrupt as most. There is even an expression for the dishonesty: “rouba, mas faz” (roughly, “It’s OK to steal if you get things done”).

“It is happening all over again. It was the same in France,” was the contribution to the “will-he won’t-he” debate from Kleber Miranda, a driver at Guarulhos on Sunday – and he was not the only one observing that the country has been here before.

It will be 16 years this week since the entire nation tuned in to see Brazil play France in the World Cup final at the Stade de France in Paris, when only half an hour before kick-off the rumour began spreading that the golden boy of that era – a 21-year-old Ronaldo – would not be in the starting line-up. When the team walked out, the talisman materialised after all. But on the pitch he was invisible: anonymous in the 3-0 defeat which was a foregone conclusion by half-time.

Ronaldo pictured during the 1998 final Ronaldo pictured during the 1998 final  

Conspiracy theories rapidly took hold. There were reports that Ronaldo had been unwell before the game and been rushed to a clinic for tests, explaining his omission from Mario Zagallo’s initial team sheet, and his reappearance on it when he returned with the all-clear. It was later confirmed that he had suffered some kind of fit on the afternoon of the game, though the tests provided no clues. Brazil’s search for a conspiracy took it to the door of Nike, sponsor at that time both of Brazil and Ronaldo.

The story took hold that the company which had paid out so heavily for the association with Ronaldo had insisted he should play, when he ought never to have been on a pitch. As the writer and Independent columnist Alex Bellos writes in his book Futebol, Nike was a “ready-made scapegoat”, with its $160m (£93m) 10-year sponsorship deal with Brazil the largest ever for a national team. Had the Brazil Football Federation surrendered control to this foreign company? It seemed so, when the contract, leaked to the press, revealed Nike had bought the right to organise up to 50 “Nike friendlies” in which first-team regulars must play. The issue became one of political significance. It led to a full-scale public inquiry on the issue of Brazil’s defeat, which culminated in Ronaldo testifying before Congress and ultimately losing patience.

“Why didn’t we win?” he asked his inquisitors. “Because we lost. Because…  I don’t know… we lost. Be patient. Just because we lost are we going to invent a bunch of mysteries, invent a bunch of stuff?”

Read more: Fifa to blame for thuggery which cost Neymar
Argentina fans mock Neymar
Without Neymar Brazil need a miracle

That is the precedent which leaves the nation wondering now. There was an establishment versus the people strand to the discussion of the injecaos in Monday’s Sao Paulo press. “Neymar says he wants to play in the final, but the medics veto it,” was the Agora S. Paulo headline, with that “veto” written in red. “Neymar has claimed the [fractured vertebra] is less sore and therefore thinks he can recover in a week,” the paper stated. “The doctors confirmed that [it] actually is not so serious [as had been thought].” The more cerebral Folha de S. Paulo picked up the story, though quoted Runco’s rebuttal at length.

Brazil's Neymar is seen inside a medical helicopter at the Granja Comary training center in Teresopolis, Brazil. Neymar will be treated at home for his back injury Brazil's Neymar is seen inside a medical helicopter at the Granja Comary training center in Teresopolis, Brazil. Neymar will be treated at home for his back injury  

In its head, Brazil knows that there will be no Neymar on Sunday. The front pages were also absorbed with Chelsea’s Willian – “Favorito” and “O cara” (“The Man”) – as well as the tactical ramifications of life without Neymar. Oscar behind Fred, with Willian thrown to his right. If success lies ahead this week, then this will be a footnote to Brazilian football history. If not, then the questions will start.

“He wants to play in the final but Barcelona would never allow that,” Miranda in his taxi said of Neymar. “It would have been different if he were still ours; still at Santos. Santos thinks football and Brazil. Barcelona thinks money and business.”

The retrospective scrutiny of all this would be less punishing if the nation could view a place in the final, without Neymar, as an accomplishment. But where football is concerned, that will never be enough in this country. “Second is nowhere for us,” Miranda added. “Losing in the final is worse than not being there at all.”

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
New Articles
i100... with this review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
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

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam