FORTALEZA, Brazil — After all those fears over protests and unfinished stadiums, it was a hard tackle that knocked the World Cup to its knees.

Neymar is out for the rest of the tournament with a fractured vertebra after being kneed in the back in the closing minutes of Brazil’s 2-1 victory over Colombia. It wasn’t a malicious hit, Brazil captain Thiago Silva said, just the kind of collision that happens in a physical, fast-paced game.

But it doesn’t make it hurt any less. Or lessen the damage — to both Brazil and the tournament for which it had such great hopes.

“He was crying out in pain,” Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said.

And all of Brazil is crying with him. So great is Neymar’s loss that even President Dilma Rousseff wished him well.

As five-time champions, Brazil is expected to win every World Cup. But there’s added urgency as the host of this year’s tournament. The World Cup was supposed to be Brazil’s big coming out party, the chance to show it has shed its third-world status.

Instead, corruption and delays pushed costs for the World Cup over $11 billion. Angry enough at the wasted resources, Brazilians are equally furious at the embarrassment caused by the chaotic World Cup preparations.

But once the World Cup began, the resentment was put on hold. Pride in the Selecao trumps anger at politicians any day, and the title was Brazil’s to win.

After all, Brazil had won last summer’s Confederations Cup, beating the best the world has to offer in the process. Big Phil, who coached Brazil to its last title in 2002, was in charge once again.

Best of all, Brazil had Neymar.

The No. 10 jersey in Brazil is practically sacred, worn only by the best of the best. Pele. Zico. Ronaldinho. And in Neymar the Selecao has found a worthy heir. He has a magician’s touch with his feet, the elusiveness of a ghost and the accuracy of a marksman…. see more

source: usatoday