Injured Neymar can't do it alone
As Brazil erupted when Chile’s Gonzalo Jara struck the post to hand La Selecao an agonising passage to the World Cup quarter-finals on penalties, their star player Neymar collapsed in the centre-circle in tears.
His reaction was a mixture of joy, relief and exhaustion.
The 22-year-old is carrying the burden of a expectant nation of 200 million people.
He has scored four times in as many games and also coolly slotted home Brazil’s fifth and final penalty in the shootout.
But the image of a weeping and clearly hobbled Neymar, having receiving numerous heavy challenges throughout the game, begs the question.
How long Brazil can continue to depend solely on the Barcelona man in attacking areas?
“We really suffered. It was pure emotion. My tears after the game were of happiness,” Neymar said after the Chile game.
“Today I had everything. I took a knock, I had cramp. Now all I want to do is rest.”
An injured Neymar (left) with defender Thiago Silva at a training session on July 1.
Neymar will be fit for Friday’s quarter-final against Colombia, the Brazilian Football Federation has confirmed despite injuries to his thigh and hamstring.
Who will start alongside him remains a question though.
Neither of their two principal centre-forwards, Fred and Jo, have impressed in the competition so far.
The storied history of Brazilian strikers at the World Cup also doesn’t bode well for Neymar and company if Fred and Jo don’t come good.
Failed in 1982
Despite a stellar supporting cast including Zico and Socrates, the much-maligned Serginho failed to fire them to victory in 1982.
When Brazil have succeeded, their star man has always had a wing-man.
Pele had Vava, Garrincha and Jairzinho in his three triumphs, Bebeto partnered Romario in 1994 and Ronaldo led a three-pronged attack with Rivaldo and Ronaldinho in 2002.
One other option available to manager Luiz Felipe Scolari would be to use Hulk as a battering ram centre forward and bring an extra creative player like Willian or Bernard into the side.
Scolari’s loyalty to his trusted soldiers makes it more likely he will give Fred and Jo one last go for the quarter-final against Colombia at least.
Whether that loyalty is finally rewarded or proves folly will be decided in the heat of Fortaleza on Friday.