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World Cup nightmare continues for Neymar and Brazil

Brazil chalked up another disappointing World Cup performance as they exited the tournament in a stunning quarter-final defeat on penalties at the hands of Croatia.

It is a loss that will linger as they let victory slip through their fingers shortly before the final whistle.

Brazil were winning 1-0 on Friday after Neymar scored a brilliant goal in the first half of extra time but let their guard down and allowed Croatia to score an equaliser from a counter-attack with three minutes remaining.

It was their second consecutive loss in a World Cup quarter-final, their fourth in the last five tournaments at the same stage. The occasion they made it to the semi-final on home soil in 2014 ended in them being beaten 7-1 by Germany.

It is nothing short of a disaster for a team who arrived in Qatar as favourites, filled with a new generation of talent up front alongside talisman Neymar.

What was supposed to be redemption for the Paris St Germain forward, however, was instead transformed into his third World Cup nightmare.

After being left out by coach Dunga in 2010 for being too young, four years later he sustained a cracked vertebrae in Brazil’s quarter-final victory over Colombia and watched from his hospital bed as his teammates suffered that semi-final thrashing by Germany.

At Russia 2018, injuries again hampered his World Cup dream. Earlier in the year, Neymar had suffered a sprained right ankle that affected a metatarsal in his foot, and he was never at 100% during the tournament, playing through pain and out of form when Brazil were knocked out in the quarter-finals by Belgium.

He suffered a similar injury in Brazil’s opener in Qatar, ruling him out of the next two games, but managed to recover in time for the last 16 match against South Korea, when they looked outstanding in their 4-1 win.

On Friday, he scored a brilliant goal that was securing Brazil’s place in a semi-final against potential opponents and bitter rivals Argentina.

However, a tactical and mental breakdown ended up costing them the win and the shock of conceding the late equaliser proved too much for Brazil’s stunned players who simply crumbled in the shootout.

Neymar said after the match on Friday he was unsure if he would play again for the national team.

Brazil will have to wait four more years to try to win a record-extending sixth world title and their first since 2002.

The team may be able to rely on Real Madrid’s young trio of Vinicius Jr, Rodrygo and Eder Militao and Premier League rising stars Bruno Guimaraes, Antony and Gabriel Martinelli, among others.

Palmeiras’ 16-year-old prodigy Endrick is already making noise in Brazil’s under-19 squad and European media reports say he is close to signing with Real Madrid for a Brazilian league record 60 million euros ($63.18 million).

The biggest question mark right away is who will take over as coach, with Tite leaving the job after failing to bring Brazil glory in two consecutive attempts.

There is some debate over whether Brazil should bring in a European coach for the first time in the modern era.

Brazilian media reports say the country’s FA have inquired about Spaniard and Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola’s availability, and the recent success of Portuguese managers Jorge Jesus, Abel Ferreira and Luis Castro with Flamengo, Palmeiras and Botafogo have made fans more open to the idea.

Either way, the new coach will have a hard job and will be desperate not to create more disappointment while managing the next stage for a team with or without Neymar, who turns 31 in February.

  • FIFA WORLD CUP 2022

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