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After losing Neymar Brazil tries to stay confident
BELO HORIZONTE—Still coping with the loss of its biggest star, Brazil is trying to find ways to remain upbeat about its prospects at the World Cup. The medical helicopter that took Neymar home with a back injury also carried away much of the country’s hopes for a sixth world title, but the tournament isn’t over yet and Brazil is just days away from a difficult semifinal against Germany.
“We have to try to be mature in a moment like this,” Brazil defender David Luiz said. “We are sad because we are missing an important player and someone who was trying to fulfill his dream of winning this title.”
One of the tournament’s main attractions, Neymar had been decisive for Brazil until the devastating injury late in the team’s 2–1 win over Colombia in the quarterfinals on Friday. He was crucial on the field and an essential part of the group trying to win the title at home. He was seen as the joyful youngster who was admired and respected by everyone. Brazil doctor Jose Luiz Runco said the players were “shocked and saddened” when they heard Neymar would miss the rest of the World Cup.
“It’s sad because we know how hard he worked to be here with us,” striker Fred said. “We know how important he was for us. But we have to look at our group and realise that it still has a lot of quality.” Everyone knows it won’t be easy replacing Neymar. Brazil thrived when he played well and struggled when he didn’t live up to expectations.
“It’s difficult to lose a player who is so crucial to our team,” veteran right back Maicon said.
It will be up to coach Luiz Felipe Scolari to find a replacement for the 22-year-old striker and to keep the team in contention for a sixth world title. The team’s other forwards have been struggling since the competition began, and nobody else in the squad has the characteristics of the Barcelona star.
Instead of using reserve strikers Bernard or Jo, it’s likely that Scolari will pick one of his midfielders to play in the match against Germany tomorrow in Belo Horizonte. Willian, Hernanes and Ramires are the most probable options.
Making matters worse for Scolari is the fact that captain and central defender Thiago Silva will also be missing because of a yellow-card suspension. “We don’t know who is going to come in, but we know that we have a lot of quality players in our squad,” Silva said. “We are sad for Neymar and because I’m not going to play, but we have to be prepared despite these absences.”
One way for Brazil to try to stay positive may be to look to its past. It’s not the first time Brazil’s national team lost its best player to injury during the World Cup. It happened to Pele and Brazil still won the title. “I was also injured during the 1962 World Cup in Chile, and I was out for the rest of the tournament,” Pele said. “But God helped Brazil continue on to win the championship.”
When Pele hurt a muscle in the second match of the tournament in Chile, most in Brazil said the chances of a world title had diminished significantly. But the team won its next four matches to clinch its second consecutive trophy. “I hope the same will happen with our Selecao in this World Cup,” Pele said.
Runco added that Neymar’s absence can work in Brazil’s favour.
“I think this will help make this group become stronger, it will motivate them to reach the final and win the title,” the doctor said. “They will want to honour this teammate who always helped the team.”
AT A GLANCE
Tomorrow’s semifinal 1
Brazil vs Germany @ 4 pm
Wednesday’s semifinal 2
Argentina vs Netherlands @ 4 pm
World Cup crowds top second best average in history
RIO DE JANEIRO—World Cup attendances are set to achieve the second-highest average in tournament history.
FIFA says the average crowd after 60 matches in Brazil is 52,762, beating the 52,491 mark for the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
The record was set in the United States at the 1994 World Cup, when an average of 68,991 attended the 52 matches in a 24-team tournament. More than 3.16 million spectators have attended in Brazil, with stadiums filled to 98.3 percent capacity, FIFA says. With four matches left, the total attendance is set to approach 3.4 million.
Brazil 100 Club 2014
Brazil 2014 has seen a huge number of memorable landmarks, with individuals and teams both reaching special milestones. The 100 club has been bolstered by a range of additions, with several players and sides attaining their century. Some of the centenaries that have reached and surpassed to mark are Neymar, Wesley Sneijder and Olivier Giroud.
• Sneijder 100th game for Netherlands, June 13
One of the first special landmarks at Brazil 2014 came on the second day of the tournament, with Dutch No 10 Sneijder making his 100th international appearance in a quite remarkable game against Spain.
• Germany play its 100th game, June 16
When three-time world champions Germany played their first match at Brazil 2014, they became the first side to reach 100 World Cup games.
• Yepes’ 100th game for Colombia, June 19
The veteran defender made his 100th appearance for Los Cafeteros in their second group match against Côte d’Ivoire. Due to his side appearing at their first finals since 1998, it was only his second World Cup appearance at the age of 38. The captain led his charges to a 2–1 win that secured their passage to the knockout stages.
• Giroud scores France’s 100th WC goal, June 20
France’s opening game at Brazil 2014 saw them sweep Honduras aside with their 97th, 98th and 99th World Cup goals in a 3-0 victory.
• Mascherano gets his 100th game for Argentina, June 21
The Argentina No14 faced Iran for the first time in his 100th appearance for the Albiceleste, and it was a game largely suited to his spoiling tendencies as the match remained scoreless for 90 minutes.
• Per Mertesacker makes his 100th appearance for Germany, June 21
Becoming the tenth German to reach 100 appearances.
• Brazil reach a century of World Cup games, June 23, 2014
Just one week after Germany became the first side to reach 100 World Cup matches, Brazil 2014’s hosts joined them with their final Group A match against Cameroon which they swept aside 4–1.
• Neymar scores the 100th goal for Brazil, June 23
The first goal of the World Cup was scored by a Brazilian, Marcelo putting through his own net in the Opening Match against Croatia, but the tournament’s 100th saw their No10 score at the right end.
• Dirk Kuyt wins his 100th cap Netherlands, June 29
The former Liverpool winger’s centenary appearance will surely go down as having one of the most incredible finales in World Cup history.
• Joseph Yobo makes his 100th appearance for Nigeria, June 30, 2014
After Godfrey Oboabona’s injury in the Super Eagles’ opening game against Iran, Yobo took his place in the centre of defence along with the captain’s armband. He made his 98th and 99th international appearances in the side’s remaining group games before leading his team out against France for the country’s first World Cup knockout game since 1998. He became his country’s first centurion player. (AP)