Neymar suffered a very hard foul from Gudelj in the 8th minute of the second half, in front of the area. He was going to appear in good condition to shoot for the goal or play for Vini Jr or Richarlison and was knocked down from behind. The Serbian received a yellow card, the second that the number 10 of Brazil generated in that game.
Neymar went for the ball and at that moment the Lusail stadium stopped: all eyes, cameras and cell phone flashes turned towards the biggest Brazilian star. The kick hit the wall and went wide, but the moment was only proof that the center of attention in the team’s debut in Qatar was him, no one else.
Brazil’s number 10 was hunted on the field, breaking the record for fouls suffered in the first round of the World Cup. It was nine. He did Pavlovic and Gudelj hanging and was brought down from minute one to minute 79, when he had to be replaced with pain in his right ankle – the same one that tormented and took him out of action in 2019. Neymar left, which never happens in national team games. And Neymar cried in pain on the bench, which never happens in national team games.
He had a sprain, there is swelling and the severity will only be known in the coming days. There will be moments of expectation in relation to Neymar’s physical state. But also of memories in relation to the good performance in the debut.
The spotlight on Neymar started early at the Lusail stadium. While the organization of Brazil x Serbia played lights and played loud music to create a mood, Neymar didn’t care: during the entire ceremony, he talked and was teased by smiling children in the entrance tunnel to the lawn. He patted everyone’s hand, chatted and won toothless, emotional smiles in return.
During the National Anthem, no more smiles: hard chewing a piece of gum, he cast the intent look that would mark his performance until the fateful 34th minute of the second half.
One punch, two punches, three punches, four punches, five punches… that’s just in the first half. And Neymar didn’t outline acrimonious complaint about any. In other times, he would react with anger, feeling wronged, disturbed, hurt, prevented from exercising his talent. At the age of 30, at the opening of the Cup of his life, it was far from being like that. Even when Gudelj pulled his shirt almost off in an unassuming touchline move, Neymar didn’t complain. He helped the Serb finish the service, without falls or flashy reactions. Even his hair was understated.
World Cup 2022: pictures of Brazil vs Serbia
With the ball in his foot, the usual quality: a central midfielder, without any defensive responsibility — the dirty service of returning to score was Richarlison’s —, the number 10 tried to score an Olympic goal in Brazil’s first corner and gave a heel pen to Tadic still in the first half. In the second, he led the scoring and facilitated the arrival of Vini Jr in the move that generated Richarlison’s goal rebound. It is an almost symbolic handover to the likely future leaders of the Brazilian team.
But that’s not why Neymar is already off. He was the one with the most shots on goal for the national team, with five shots. Two right. When he managed to stand up, he was a pain in the ass.
In another move, he recalled that of Denilson against Turkey in 2002, leaving four markers behind before Serbia fouled again. And another, and another, and another, by Milenkovic. Right on the right ankle. Then Neymar couldn’t take the pain and had to leave. He iced his right foot, cried and hid his face in his shirt on the dugout. At the final whistle, boot in hand, Neymar limped off the pitch. Under all eyes and cell phone flashes.
What was the most beautiful goal of the first round of the World Cup in Qatar?
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