Neymar out of World Cup with fractured back
No Neymar, no Silva for Brazil in semi-final against Germany
(Thiago Silva 7, David Luiz 69)
(James Rodriguez 80-pen)
They have been mocked and they have been maligned, but at last, they have arrived.
Brazil, unconvincing and disjointed in their first four games of this tournament, finally demonstrated the kind of passionate, forthright football that won them the Confederations Cup last year.
It may yet win them the World Cup on July 13, but they will have to do it without Neymar.
Brazil's golden boy was floored towards the end of a bruising 2-1 victory over Colombia, wiped out by a flying kneecap from Juan Zuniga in the small of the back.
He hit the deck hard, rolling not in an attempt to coax a card from the referee, but in obvious, abundant pain.
He was whisked away on a stretcher and taken straight to hospital from the stadium. He is expected to be out for some weeks.
A hospital exam "showed he suffered a fracture of the third vertebra" in his back, team doctor Rodrigo Lasmar told reporters.
"Unfortunately, he's not going to be able to play," said Lasmar.
"It's not serious in the sense that it doesn't need surgery, but he'll need to immobilise it to recover."
It was a sad, but predictable end to a game spoiled by Spanish referee Carlos Velasco Carballo and his inability to protect the players from each other.
There were 54 fouls in this tussle and only four yellow cards, none of which came in the first hour when they might have calmed people down.
Carballo might have thought he was letting the game flow, though given that he was blowing for a free-kick almost every 90 seconds, it's hard to see why.
Instead, his inaction legitimised a series of brutal challenges, culminating in the assault on Neymar.
But Brazil, at least, are in the semi-finals.
They may have been anxious and twitchy in the second half, but they blew Colombia away before the break with an invigorated display.
Jose Pekerman's men, the best side in the World Cup so far, didn't know what had hit them.
They were second to every 50-50 ball, such was the ferocity of the hosts' performance.
It didn't take long for them to score either. A seventh-minute corner from Neymar evaded everyone and Thiago Silva slipped away from Carlos Sanchez to prod the ball home at the back post.
Colombia were so stunned that they fell back into their own half, battered by wave after wave of attacks, primarily through a revived Hulk.
Pekerman's team were fortunate to make it to half-time without conceding further.
But, when the second half began, it was clear that all the coherence in the Brazilian display, and in the game itself, had melted away.
There were a stream of fouls, all of which went unpunished by referee Carballo until Silva's cheeky attempt to delay a goal-kick in the 64th minute was deemed more offensive than so many vicious tackles.
His booking means that he will miss the semi-final against Germany, a big loss for Brazil, who need his tenacity at the back and the partnership he has formed with David Luiz.
It was Luiz who appeared to put the game beyond doubt in the 69th minute.
A clumsy challenge from James Rodriguez, one from which he quite obviously tried to extricate himself, pulling his legs back to avoid damaging anyone, and one which landed a booking from Carballo.
Rodriguez angrily reminded him of the multiple fouls he had suffered and then walked away, laughing at the injustice of it all.
He wasn't laughing seconds later. Despite being approximately 35 metres from goal, Luiz unleashed a ground-to-air missile into the top corner that left David Ospina grasping at thin air.
But Colombia weren't going to go quietly into the night. A break with 10 minutes to go saw Carlos Bacca tumble over Julio Cesar in the box.
A penalty was awarded, a red card was not.
Carballo deemed Luiz to be a covering defender, which he was, having overtaken Bacca while he was being cleaned out by Cesar.
Rodriguez struck home the penalty, his sixth goal of the tournament and a tense, but ultimately doomed chase for an equaliser began.
It has been a good night for Brazilian football, and it looks like a very bad one as well.
Unfortunately, he’s not going to be able to play. He doesn’t need surgery, but he’ll need to immobilise the back to recover.
- Brazil team doctor Rodrigo Lasmar, confirming that Neymar’s World Cup is over