Neymar fixation back to haunt hosts
Brazil dreams ended not on pitch but when they started weeping for a 22-year-old boy with a back injury
BRAZIL'S World Cup dreams did not end on the pitch in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday night - they died four days ago when they started weeping for a 22-year-old boy with a back injury.
As Brazil fans gathered outside the Estadio Mineirao seven hours before kick-off, the main topic of conversation was Neymar.
Many had the name of their poster boy on their back, above the number 10. Some fans had brought cut-out Neymar masks to wear and others sang his name in the streets while sipping the local beer to get into the party mood ahead of the big match - the semi-final which they would win to go through to a Maracana final. It was their destiny, they thought.
Once the Brazil squad arrived, it was much of the same. The players wore baseball caps with #ForcaNeymar on the front.
Chants of "Ole Neymar" rang out as the Brazil players started warming up.
When the players emerged from the tunnel a few moments later they put their right arm out and rested it on the shoulder of the man in front of him as a mark of solidarity for their diminutive injured colleague.
David Luiz and Julio Cesar pulled a Neymar shirt out and held it up proudly as they sang the national anthem.
It was as if a war hero had just died.
It was pathetic.
But it was expected. For the last four days Brazil has done nothing but talk about Neymar.
Pele, Carlos Alberto and other icons of Brazilian football have wished him luck in his recovery from a back injury.
Brazil's president wasted no time in a points-scoring exercise on Friday night, tweeting a message of support for the Barcelona star.
Brazil's players spoke tirelessly about the injured forward, as did coach Luiz Felipe Scolari.
It seems no one stopped to think about the match ahead.
No one thought about Germany's far superior squad, their solid defence, their marauding midfield and their clinical marksmen.
It was just Neymar, Neymar, Neymar.
"Let's win it for him" was the message from the camp.
Scolari will probably deny it, but all the talk of Neymar has clearly been a huge distraction for he and his team in the build up to Tuesday's game.
Brazil should have been thinking about other matters instead. That is one of the reasons why they were battered 7-1 by Germany.
Neymar's name was nowhere to be heard at the final whistle.
The only sound that reverberated around this grand stadium was booing.
Neymar's injury meant Brazil had taken their eye off the ball before it had even been kicked.