Hard Dose of Reality Impinges on Brazil's Fairy Tale Victory
Brazil defeated Colombia in the quarterfinal but will now miss the services of Neymar - who was injured during the match - and Thiago Silva who has been disqualified for semifinal against Germany.
Neymar has brought a lot of joy to Brazilians in the last few weeks, but he and they were in a lot of pain Friday night.
This World Cup, Brazil's World Cup, changed irrevocably with a single knee to Neymar's back from Colombian defender Juan Camilo Zuniga.
Most Brazilians have considered the prospect of losing the tournament, but winning or losing it without Neymar was not part of the scenario.
It can be tough to distinguish feigned suffering from genuine suffering in soccer, where the stars often tumble to the grass wincing and then often bounce back quickly.
But it soon became clear that this was something significant when Neymar was carried off the field in tears on a stretcher and taken to a local clinic in Fortaleza, covering his face with his hands as he was wheeled into the emergency room.
During the 2-1 victory over Colombia, Brazilians celebrated their team's goals by leaning on their car horns, lighting firecrackers or howling with delight. By evening's end, even with the team through to the semifinals to face Germany, the party mood had turned somber with the news that Neymar would miss the rest of the tournament with a broken bone in his back.
He has been the soul and one consistent threat of a team that has had its shaky moments; the one player whose virtuoso dribbling and flamboyant, all-out style conform to the dearly held but increasingly unrealistic vision of how a Brazilian should look playing his national sport.
The beautiful game will definitely be a little uglier without Neymar, although there may be some comfort to Brazilians in knowing that they have lost their main attraction to injury in the midst of another World Cup and still managed to get a happy ending.
"Remember 1962," Carlos Alberto, the former Brazilian star, said on Brazilian television Friday night.
In 1962 at the World Cup in Chile, Pelé, the greatest of all Brazilian players, tore a leg muscle in the team's second match - a scoreless draw with Czechoslovakia - and did not play in that Cup again. But Amarildo filled in effectively, Garrincha was brilliant, and Brazil defended the title it had won in such style in 1958.
The problem this time is that Brazil will not only be without Neymar on Tuesday in Bela Horizonte. It will be without its captain, Thiago Silva, who will be serving a yellow-card suspension.
Not that the Germans were trumpeting their good fortune. Late on Friday night, Mesut Ozil, the star German midfielder, tweeted: "Neymar. I am unhappy. Get well soon."
That seemed to be the consensus, and the truth is that anyone who has been following this World Cup will miss watching Neymar at work: running fast, playing with passion and using his slight build to achieve weighty things.
The Brazilians, of course, will miss it most of all.
© 2014 New York Times News Service