AFP-Jiji KAZAN, Russia (AFP-Jiji) — Four years after the psychodrama of Neymar’s injury and a humiliating World Cup semifinal defeat as a host, Brazil is forced to come to terms with the crushing disappointment of a failed mission in Russia.
It was not meant to be like this, Tite’s side dumped out of the tournament in the quarterfinals at the hands of Belgium, losing 2-1 in Kazan.
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 its sixth title.
But instead, Tite’s side came a cropper the first time they faced another of the contenders and it is Belgium that advances to a semifinal against France.
In the four World Cups since the Selecao won the 2002 tournament in Japan and South Korea, they have been eliminated three times in the quarterfinals.
The run to the semis last time around as hosts is the exception, but fans had been desperate for their team to make up for their disastrous collapse in 2014.
When Neymar was cut down in the quarterfinal win over Colombia in the Brazilian city of Fortaleza and stretchered off with a fractured vertebrae, the outlook was not good for Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side.
Yet nobody could have predicted exactly what would follow, with a stricken Neymar absent as Brazil dramatically capitulated to the eventual winners.
They consoled themselves with the thought that, four years later, a fit Neymar would be at his peak to lead a new assault for the title on Russian soil.
Now 26 and the world’s most expensive player, 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.