In the aftermath of the Brazil – Colombia quarter-final game, newspapers were filled with news of the injury to Neymar, which ruled him out of the remainder of the World Cup.
As the whole nation demands retrospective punishment of Juan Zuniga for his foul on Neymar – the majority of those watching forgot to mention the bully boy tactics of Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side. In fact, I go further by saying pre-meditated bully boy tactics.
This Brazilian side pale in comparison to the great sides of Brazil in the past and with the likes of Jo, Fred and Hulk up front they have struggled past teams relying heavily on the creativity of Neymar.
Before the quarter-final tie, Scolari highlighted the need to get more aggressive and nasty. Scolari said: “We’re being too nice, too cordial with our opponents. It’s time we defended a little differently, to go back to my style, which is more aggressive.”
Brazil did just that as they targeted Colombia starlet James Rodriguez throughout the match. Thankfully, the youngster escaped serious injury, but the Brazilian’s reaped what they sowed and Colombia returned the favour by getting aggressive also as the game progressed.
Zuniga’s tackle was not pre-meditated, it was not an assault. Yes it was a foul and he could/should have been booked, in fact it wasn’t even the worst tackle in the tournament yet FIFA are now investigating – possibly frightened that they will be charged tax on all their profits if they do not punish the man who hurt Brazil’s golden child.
But as the saying goes ‘if you live by the sword you die by the sword.’ Brazil cannot stick the boot in one minute and then complain about Colombia doing the same the next. While Neymar didn’t deserve to be injured [no player does], would the outrage have been so vocal from the world of football if Rodriguez had been injured by one of those many challenges on him by the Brazilians?
Brazil’s protestations are nothing more than sour grapes, their tactics were to go out and nullify the threat of Rodriguez by any means necessary and if that meant him being stretchered off then so be it.
Brazilian midfielder, Ramires, emphasised that fact in his pre-match comments, adding: “Against Colombia, everything is important. We have to do whatever it takes.”
The game should have been an advert for attacking football with individuals [Neymar and Rodriguez] lighting up the game, sadly Brazil and Scolari ignored what their fellow Brazilians hold dear and turned the Samba stars into a Uruguayan style team of the 1960s to 1980s.
Zuniga is now painted as an animal and public enemy number one, but if the Spanish referee Carlos Velasco Carballo had done his job properly in this match then the deliberate targeting of Rodriguez as well as the injury to Neymar may not have happened.
For long periods of the game Brazil escaped censure from the referee despite the number of fouls committed by this new ‘aggressive’ and ugly side. According to the stats, 41 fouls were committed before the referee handed out the first booking of the match, but even more damning was that the referee lost control of the match long before then. He gave Brazil free rein to do as they pleased and that was to kick Rodriguez and his team mates up and down the pitch.
Argentinian legend Diego Maradona went further by claiming that there was an alleged FIFA conspiracy to ensure that Brazil made it through, in an interview with Spanish newspaper MARCA.
Maradona, who has been making a number of attacks on FIFA in recent weeks, claimed: “I think they [FIFA] picked the right referee for the occasion, when Colombia looked like they had a better chance than ever of beating Brazil. It was the worst refereeing performance I’ve seen in 10 years.”
He targeted David Luiz for “systematically tried to kick James Rodríguez off the pitch but wasn’t so much as booked” before turning on Julio César and Hulk, who “should have been sent off”.
Now I am certainly not stating that the game was fixed in Brazil’s favour, but it’s not the first time a match has been fixed at a World Cup.
I have no sympathy for Brazil losing their star man, I have sympathy for the player picking up an injury but that is where it ends. Under Scolari, Samba football has died during this tournament. Whether it is the pressure of being hosts or just being a side that relies heavily on one man – they will be unworthy winners of this year’s competition if they make it that far.
They face Germany in the semi finals, but can the team that relied so heavily on Neymar return to their Samba roots or will they continue with their assault of opposition players?
Time for Germany to invest in some Arnica Cream and for the WAGs to be ready with some TLC. I can only see the bully boy tactics continuing now Brazil lack Neymar’s creativity and spark.