Brazil's exit a crying shame

Brazil's goalkeeper Alisson fails to stop an own-goal by team-mate Fernandinho (17), while a distraught Neymar kneels and covers his face after his side are knocked out at the quarter-final stage on Friday. Many pundits believe Neymar's antics played
Brazil's goalkeeper Alisson fails to stop an own-goal by team-mate Fernandinho (17), while a distraught Neymar kneels and covers his face after his side are knocked out at the quarter-final stage on Friday. Many pundits believe Neymar's antics played a part in Brazil's inability to get back into the game and their eventual exit.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Brazil's goalkeeper Alisson fails to stop an own-goal by team-mate Fernandinho (17), while a distraught Neymar kneels and covers his face after his side are knocked out at the quarter-final stage on Friday. Many pundits believe Neymar's antics played
Brazil's goalkeeper Alisson fails to stop an own-goal by team-mate Fernandinho (17), while a distraught Neymar kneels and covers his face after his side are knocked out at the quarter-final stage on Friday. Many pundits believe Neymar's antics played a part in Brazil's inability to get back into the game and their eventual exit.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Neymar's classic acting stands out more than the class act he's meant to be for the Selecao

KAZAN • With Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo and Argentina's Lionel Messi out, Neymar had the chance to be the World Cup's biggest superstar in Russia.

Instead, he failed to lift Brazil past Belgium and the Red Devils advanced to a semi-final against France with a 2-1 win.

He goes home after scoring just two goals, his greatest impact on this World Cup being his tears against Costa Rica and, above all, his theatrics.

Neymar's response to supposed rough treatment from opposition defenders has been met with ridicule in certain quarters, and sympathy has been in short supply.

More significantly, a host of pundits believe that his histrionics played a part in Brazil's inability to get back into the game against Belgium and their eventual exit.

Neymar went down easily in the box after going past midfielder Marouane Fellaini in the 52nd minute, and the referee refused to call for VAR (video assistant referee).

Five minutes later, Belgium captain Vincent Kompany appeared to mistime his tackle on forward Gabriel Jesus but no penalty was awarded.

Former England striker Alan Shearer said: "This is the reason I think they didn't get the call of the VAR five or 10 minutes later. If the guys are looking for any dodgy or iffy decisions, it's going to go against Brazil because of that.

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    Brazil have now been eliminated by European sides in each of their last four World Cups (France in 2006, the Netherlands in 2010, Germany in 2014 and Belgium in 2018).

  • Germany
    Argentina
    Brazil 

    This is the first time in World Cup history that neither Brazil, Argentina nor Germany are in the semi-finals. This edition, the road for all three powerhouses' ended at the Kazan Arena. South Korea stunned the holders 2-0, Argentina were beaten 4-3 by France before Brazil fell 2-1 to Belgium.

"That doesn't help his team because of that blatant dive and trying to cheat. I think they've been punished because of that."

Fellow BBC pundit Jurgen Klinsmann felt that Brazil should have been awarded a chance to halve the deficit from the spot at 2-0.

"It's a clear penalty," said Germany's manager during the 2006 World Cup. "Do the VAR leverage the dive of Neymar?"

Brazil had expected more from their talisman after an agonising four-year wait.

When Neymar was cut down in the 2014 quarter-final win over Colombia and stretchered off with a fractured vertebrae, the outlook was not good for the hosts. Yet nobody could have predicted a stricken Neymar absent as Brazil dramatically capitulated 7-1 to the eventual winners Germany.

They consoled themselves with the thought that a fit Neymar would be at his peak to lead a new assault for the title on Russian soil.

Now 26 and the world's most expensive player, Neymar was fit here, but only just.

Despite creating chances for his team-mates, including a cutback for Philippe Coutinho, he was often outmuscled by a physical and powerful Belgium side.

He was not the only one. Fernandinho, who scored the own-goal that gave Belgium the lead, could only watch Romelu Lukaku surge past him untouched on the halfway line in the build-up to Belgium's second goal, unable to put a foot in to break up the play that ended with Kevin de Bruyne scoring.

Fernandinho would not have gotten his first World Cup start since he was hauled off at half-time on Brazil's way to the humiliating loss to Germany in 2014 if not for Casemiro's suspension.

The Real Madrid star picked up a yellow card against Switzerland and Mexico. And former Spain and Real Madrid full-back Alvaro Arbeloa noted that the absence of Tite's first-choice defensive midfielder on the back four he typically sits in front of was telling.

"You don't know how incredibly good and important it is @Casemiro until you don't have it," tweeted the retired defender, part of the squad that won the 2010 World Cup.

So poor was Fernandinho's performance in the Kazan Arena that Brazil goalkeeper Alisson was forced to defend the 33-year-old post-match.

"Situations like this happen in football," said the stopper.

"We're supporting him as a friend and as a mate."

There was no one scapegoat, though, as the Brazilian media also hit out at Jesus after failing to score in five starts.

"Without a single goal, Gabriel Jesus had the worst performance of a Brazil No. 9 at any World Cup," Globo Esporte wrote.

"Alcindo in 1966 and Mirandinha in 1974 also failed to score, but played fewer matches."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 08, 2018, with the headline 'Brazil's exit a crying shame'. Print Edition | Subscribe