Turns out it is the thought that counts in this World Cup.
At least that’s how it has worked out for Brazil, which summoned a psychologist after suffering a meltdown during its round-of-16 win last week.
So on Friday, sound of mind as well as body, Brazil got its World Cup title hopes back on track with Thiago Silva and David Luiz both scoring off set pieces to lift the host nation over Colombia, 2-1, in Fortaleza, Brazil. With the victory, Brazil advances to the semifinals for the first time since 2002, when it won its record fifth World Cup title.
Brazil will play Germany on Tuesday in Belo Horizonte. Colombia, meanwhile, goes home after an inspiring performance in which it reached the quarterfinals for the first time in its history, winning more games in this World Cup — four — than it had in its previous four appearances combined.
Brazil, which pressured from the opening kickoff, got a break in the seventh minute when a too-strong corner kick by Neymar missed everybody in front of the goal. But the ball took a fortunate bounce near the far post, allowing Silva to redirect it into the net with his left leg.
Luiz’s goal came in the 69th minute on a laser-like free kick from about 30 yards.
It was significant that Neymar, Silva and Luiz combined for the two goals since they were three of the players who were in tears at the end of last week’s penalty-kick shootout with Chile.
Luiz and goalkeeper Julio Cesar also broke down at the end of extra time and Silva was so overwhelmed he asked not to be selected for the shootout, watching alone by the touchline. Critics and former players called the emotion a sign of weakness but coach Luiz Felipe Scolari saw it as reflection of the immense pressure Brazil’s demanding fans have put on a young national team with 17 World Cup rookies.
So he called in a counselor and Brazil responded with its most complete game in this tournament. And they needed that against a hard-working, underrated Colombian team that quickly become a tournament favorite.
Brazil dominated in virtually every statistical category, especially possession, controlling the ball nearly 60 percent of the time. Despite that, Colombia appeared to have tied the score in the 67th minute when Mario Yepes scored after a wild scramble in front of the net.
But the goal was waved off by an offside call. And moments later Luiz made it 2-0 — a score that proved important when Colombia finally got on the scoreboard with a penalty kick in the 80th minute. Not surprisingly the goal came from James Rodriguez, who leads this World Cup with six scores.
The victory might yet prove to be a costly one, though, since Neymar, Brazil’s star playmaker, left the field with a back injury in the 88th minute and has been ruled out of the World Cup after fracturing his vertebra.
Neymar, who has scored four goals in the tournament, will miss the semifinal against Germany in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday and the final should Brazil win. He is expected to be out for some weeks.
“Unfortunately, he’s not going to be able to play,” said Brazil team doctor Rodrigo Lasmar.
“It’s not serious in the sense that it doesn’t need surgery, but he’ll need to immobilize it to recover,” he said after the player was taken straight to hospital from the stadium in Fortaleza.
Neymar, Brazil’s poster boy and one of the world’s most marketable players, has been driving his country’s bid for a sixth world title with his goals and creative talent.
He went down after a challenge by Colombia’s Juan Zuniga in the 88th minute and looked to be in considerable pain.
“We’ll miss him,” teammate Oscar said. “Whoever comes in in his place has to play as part of the team and beat Germany.
“The best thing we do is play as a team and I just hope that whoever comes in plays well,” the attacking midfielder said.
The 22-year-old, who plays for Spanish club Barcelona, had to be carried off on a stretcher and was replaced by defender Henrique for the final minutes of the game.
Many Brazil fans had gathered outside the Fortaleza hospital, shouting “Forca Neymar” (be strong Neymar) as the player was being wheeled into the building.
Neymar also received support from the country’s president, Dilma Rousseff, who tweeted: “Like all Brazil I am one of those cheering from the sidelines for our star Neymar to get better.”