Neymar hit with 4-match ban

Tournament loses one of its top draws after he was punished for headbutting opponent

Santiago - Brazil superstar Neymar was dramatically thrown out of the Copa America on Friday as Chile shrugged off a drink-driving controversy surrounding Arturo Vidal to power into the quarter-finals.

Neymar's participation in the South American footballing showpiece came to an abrupt end after a disciplinary hearing slapped him with a four-match ban for headbutting a Colombian player.

The punishment deprives the tournament of one of its most recognisable stars and leaves Brazil in turmoil as they contemplate the remainder of the event without their captain and best player.

Neymar's fate had been in the balance after he was given a red card during a post-match brawl that erupted after Brazil's 0-1 upset loss to Colombia in Group C on Wednesday.

The 23-year-old was already ruled out of Brazil's final group game against Venezuela (tomorrow morning, Singapore time) after collecting a second yellow card of the tournament against the Colombians.

Neymar, who was also fined US$10,000 (S$13,000), can appeal the punishment.

But unless the ban is reduced, it means he has played his last game of the Copa, with Brazil having at most four games left.

Alberto Lozada, a member of the disciplinary committee, revealed that Neymar had received a heavier punishment because he had abused match officials in the tunnel following his dismissal.

"Worst of all was that after the match, he waited for the referee in the tunnel and insulted him, which aggravated the matter and led to the longer ban," Lozada told Brazilian media.

"This constituted an act of aggression which required punishment of more matches."

Colombian player Carlos Bacca, who shoved Neymar following his butt on scorer Jeison Murillo, was suspended for two games.

Neymar's shock early departure marks a stunning fall from grace for the young forward who had been carrying his nation's hopes as they chased a first Copa America crown since 2007.

There was already bad blood between him and the Colombian team heading into Wednesday's match.

The Brazilian suffered a tournament-ending fractured vertebra during a stormy World Cup quarter-final battle with Colombia last year.

Neymar arrived in Chile brimming with confidence and good form following a starring role in Barcelona's treble-winning season, scoring the final goal in the Spanish giants' Champions League victory over Juventus in Berlin on June 6.

The Brazilian was also in sparkling form against Peru in his country's opening game of the tournament, scoring one goal and setting up an injury-time winner for the five-time world champions.

AFP

Colombia v Peru

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Brazil v Venezuela

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 21, 2015, with the headline 'Neymar hit with 4-match ban'. Print Edition | Subscribe