Yesterday’s 2014 World Cup Quarter Final matches saw Brazil and Germany advance to the semi-finals, sending France and Columbia home. They will meet each other on Tuesday July 8. The match between Brazil and Columbia was more rough and tumble than the statistics showed, with the referees failing to control the game. As a result, Brazil lost a key player, Neymar, when in the 87th minute of play, a Colombian player, Juan Camilo Zuniga, planted his knee in Neymar’s back fracturing a vertebrae. The penalty? None. Columbia was not the only side playing very rough, so was Brazil and the referees did little to stop it.
So what happened to Neymar? How did the face of this tournament end up in a hospital? Brazilian fans will not like to hear it, but while Zuniga was directly responsible for causing Neymar’s injury, Neymar’s teammates – specifically Fernandinho, though there were others – as well as the referee, Carlos Velasco Carballo, deserve their share of the blame, too. They did not commit the crime, but they contributed to an environment of lawlessness that led to Neymar being battered.
If that sounds harsh, consider that Brazil’s coach, Luiz Felipe Scolari, made a point of saying before the game that there was no historical rivalry between Brazil and Colombia and that games between the teams are “friendly matches.” Thiago Silva, the captain, said that playing against Colombia’s considerable skill players would make for a cleaner, more fluid game.
Yet from the first minute it appeared that Brazil was determined to play the game cynically, tripping and pushing and kicking at Colombia’s players, especially James Rodriguez, the team’s wunderkind scorer. Colombia, on the other hand, seemed almost deferential at first. When Neymar went off on a spirited run six minutes into the game, the Colombian defenders did little to try to knock him off stride, let alone scythe him to the ground as previous opponents had done. He ran freely.
When Rodriguez went to claim the ball a few minutes later, however, Brazil’s Oscar ran right into Rodriguez’s back as if to make clear to the Colombian that no space on the Fortaleza field would be a safe space. Rodriguez’s teammates were understandably upset, but there was no retaliation – the feeling of violence in the game, especially early on, came almost exclusively from Brazil.
Two minutes after Oscar’s foul, Marcelo blasted the Colombian midfielder Juan Cuadrado. Three minutes after that, Fernandinho, a midfielder who often plays with an edge, slammed into Rodriguez again. Velasco Carballo blew his whistle and called a foul but did not show Fernandinho a yellow card.
And on and on it went to the end. There was a lot of media criticism, heaped mostly on the referees, and rightfully so. Hopefully this isn’t a harbinger of the game on Tuesday or today’s matches.
Speaking of today’ matches for the second day of the 2014 Quarter Finals, first up at Noon EDT is Argentina and Belgium, who are pretty evenly matched as far as player strength and scoring goes. All of their previous games were missing the drama of yellow and red cards.
Costa Rica is considered the underdog in its match against the Netherlands, whose players are considered bullies, especially their star, Arjen Robben, known for his foul creating theatrics.
ABC and ESPN are juggling the matches with the tennis world’s Wimbledon Women’s and Men’s Finals. The Argentina – Belgium match is being shown on ABC with coverage starting at 11:30 and the game beginning at Noon. ESPN takes over for the Costa Rica – Netherlands game starting at 3:30 with kick-off at 4 PM. All times EDT.