Forget flair - Brazil have more than a touch of the iron boot
15:15 08 July 2014
If you live by the sword, you can expect to die by the sword.
I know it has a biblical derivation and comparing its meaning with a simple game of football might be regarded as heresy by some.
But bear with me – I have faith in football. As long as it manages to rid itself of the type of behaviour Brazil produced against Colombia in the quarter-final of the World Cup – all being played out in front of their enthusiastic, colourful and quite honestly magnificent home fans.
Brazil, you will recall, will be without their star player, Neymar, for tonight’s semi-final against Germany. Neymar was the victim of a most unpleasant indiscretion by Colombian Juan Zuniga, who kneed him in the back and left him with a fractured vertebrae.
It was an awful sight – the challenge and Neymar’s removal from the pitch, clearly in distress.
But sympathy must be tempered by the treatment Neymar and his team-mates have meted out.
Neymar, you may recall, should have been red-carded in Brazil’s opening match of the tournament for elbowing Croatian’s Luka Modric. Had Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura not decided to have a case of first night nerves, Brazil might not be where they are today.
But Neymar isn’t the only guilty Brazilian – the Samba boys dished it out on Friday against Colombia. It was Target James Rodriguez night. Rodriguez is perhaps the most exciting talent I have seen at this tournament, yet Brazil – a team traditionally associated with all that is good about the beautiful game, despite the fact that link has been lost for some years now – were quite happy to hack him down at will.
When Rodriguez himself was booked for a foul, you didn’t need to be able to speak his language to know what he was saying to the ref – “How come I get booked for one foul when I have been fouled umpteen times” (my Colombian is a tad rusty...).
His compatriot, Juan Cuadrado, had been marked out for similar treatment by Uruguay – fortunately, he soaked it up, which perhaps allowed Rodriguez to escape the snapping boots of their opponents and score the goal of the tournament to cap off a sensational performance.
At the final whistle on Friday, Rodriguez was in tears and the cynical side of my brain can’t quite determine whether David Luiz was being completely sincere when he put his arms around him and pointed to the top of his head – so the crowd could acknowledge the young lad for what he is – a great player. It seemed a little over the top and perhaps the bubble in the picture should simply have read, “Yeh, he’s good, but he ain’t as good when we kick lumps out of him”.
Brazil – whose cause tonight isn’t helped by the suspension of captain Thiago Silva – saw that sort of on-field violence work against them in the 60s when Pele was kicked from pillar to post in 62 and 66. They really should know better.
But they are the hosts and perhaps they believe that a combination of their home fans and a weak-minded match official might just work in their favour and allow them to get away with more than they would in normal circumstances. This is, after all, the pursuit of the greatest prize of them all.
Whether or not Brazil have an obligation to play the game as it should be played is debatable, but I suspect Germany won’t allow themselves to be bullied out of a place in the final.