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World Cup 2014 : Neymar's injury robs Brazil of their superstar status

Sandip Bardhan, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, July 09, 2014
First Published: 15:32 IST(9/7/2014) | Last Updated: 17:35 IST(9/7/2014)

Brazil, for many football lovers in India, are the superheroes of the game — those like the X-Men or the Justice League.

They have thrilled and fascinated generations with their skill-packed display, fired the imagination of fans with record five titles (one more than Italy's four trophies) and held their heads high like the righteous heroes who stand for courage to deliver justice and make dreams come true in the face of rampaging opponents.

Soccer fans gathered outside the stadium where the Brazilian national soccer team trains.(AP Photo)

The disastrous end to the 2014 World Cup journey of Brazil is, however, in stark contrast to the fairy tale endings in comic books or on the silver screen.

In the semi-final encounter against Germany, the Men in Yellow did not look like heroes, and lagged in all aspects — perseverance, skill and determination — as they went down like a house of cards, sinking not only the hopes of the 198-million strong population of Brazil but also that of several thousand Indians who were glued to the TV screen despite the daunting hours.

Read: The match as it happened

Traditionally, football lovers in India have an admiration for Latin American giants such as Argentina and Brazil — probably because of the cliché that South American football is about skill and Europe is about power.

No wonder that a section of football fans in India, a country ranked 154th in Fifa rankings, live their dreams through the triumph of the Latin American giants who can boast of housing heroes such as Pele, Garrincha, Diego Maradona and Gabriel Batistuta in the past.

Going into the 2014 World Cup, Brazil needed that hero of the heroes who could lift the team post the Ronaldo-Rivaldo era.

And they had Neymar - a young, talented player - who fans believed had enough fire in the belly to dribble past all the obstacles to earn Brazil their sixth Cup.

Undisputedly, he was the hero of the Selecao in this World Cup, but was ruled out with a fractured vertebra.

Neymar grimaces as he is carried off the pitch after being injured during the quarter-final match against Colombia. (Reuters Photo)

Without Neymar leading the charge against a gutsy Germany, Brazil was in a deep spot — languishing for a messiah who could pull them out only to find he never turned up. It seemed that they were reluctant to play in the first place.

After Brazil's rout, it will not be an exaggeration to tweak inspector James Gordon's words in The Dark Knight to conclude that Neymar, who had 4 goals in 5 matches, was the hero Brazil needed and of course, deserved.

For, no other player in the Brazil squad looked capable of springing a surprise.

Read: Brazil in tears after humiliation

Despite his heroics in the past, Julio Cesar was no Beast who could swing on the three posts and stop everything that came his way.

Without dependable Thiago Silva, who was suspended for the semis after picking up a silly booking against Colombia, Brazil's defence fell apart.

Perhaps, Silva had forgotten what Uncle Ben had told young Peter Parker: "With great power, comes great responsibility."

Brazil's David Luiz holds up Neymar's jersey during the singing of national anthems before the semi-final match against Germany. (Reuters Photo)

Luis Scolari is no Charles Xavier either. Forget controlling his players’ minds, as the German side ran amok, his expressions caught on camera were enough to indicate what he was going through.

In a tournament where heroes are made every four years and villains face the wrath of fans for fall from grace, Brazil's semi-final story is all about the missing heroes.

And the entire team has become the villain, suffering a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Germans, who have to don the bad man's cap in Hollywood flicks for the sake of a stained history.

For Brazil and their fans, it is not about a loss in the semis. For a team that won in 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002, it is about a loss of pride.

Watch video: Brazilians heartbroken after disastrous World Cup exit

It is also about the shattered dreams of football aficionados in India who woke up in the middle of the night, or did not sleep till late, to watch the Brazil-Germany encounter.

Before the match, Neymar had said his teammates would do anything to win without him. But, with the entire brigade biting the dust, the onus is now on the young Barcelona player to lift the team's morale and regain what is lost.

A Brazil fan wearing Neymar's mask sits in the stands at the end of the semi-final match against Germany. (Reuters Photo)

Will Neymar be able to become the hero — both on and off the pitch — in the developing country where football is the only means of entertainment for many?

There's always a second chance, they say. Neymar might take Brazilians, and even the Indian fans, all the way to Russia in 2018.

Read: Brazil vs Germany — is the 1-7 loss worse than 1950 trauma?


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