Brazil bitter but motivated by ‘cowardly’ tackle on Neymar

2014-07-08 08:44

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Belo Horizonte – Brazil remain bitter about the tackle that ended their marquee striker Neymar’s World Cup, but hope his absence will inspire the rest of the team in today’s semifinal against Germany.

Neymar broke a vertebra in Brazil’s 2-1 quarterfinal victory against Colombia after defender Juan Camilo Zúñiga went in with a raised knee during a hard-fought game.

The Colombian has apologised and said it was not intentional, but many Brazilians remain furious of being deprived of their best player at such a crucial stage in their quest to win a sixth world title.

“In my opinion, it was a cowardly tackle. I’m a defender and you don’t do that,” said Brazil captain Thiago Silva, who also misses the semi in Belo Horizonte due to a one-game suspension.

“There’s no way you put a knee behind a player to get a ball in front, unless you want to cause a certain situation.”

Soccer’s world governing body Fifa ruled yesterday that no retrospective action would be taken against Zúñiga because the referee had seen the incident. A foul, but no card, was given.

Speaking at a news conference in the Mineirao stadium, where they will play Germany, Silva and coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said Neymar’s absence had only strengthened the rest of the group’s resolve.

“Neymar has already done what he has to do, now the other 22 players in the squad have to go out and do it, especially for him,” Silva said of his team-mate, who was far and away Brazil’s best performer with four goals and a constant menace.

Neymar has netted 35 times in 54 games for Brazil, more than anyone else in the squad, and Scolari had selected him for every one of the 27 matches he has coached since returning to manage Brazil for a second time in 2012.

Remarkably for two nations with eight World Cup titles between them, Brazil and Germany have only played each other once previously in the tournament, when the Brazilians won the 2002 World Cup final 2-0.

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