Local press urges Brazil to 'play for Neymar'
Brazilian newspapers on Saturday urged the national football team to play for Neymar but wondered whether they can win the World Cup without their injured superstar. The front pages were dominated by pictures of Neymar lying down in tears on the pitch after breaking a vertebrae in the 2-1 victory against Colombia in the northeastern city of Fortaleza.
Some newspapers assailed Colombian defender Juan Zuniga for injuring Brazil's top player with a knee to the lower back that knocked Neymar out of the World Cup. Others pointed their finger at referee Spanish referee Carlos Velasco Carballo, saying he was to blame for not booking more players for hard tackles -- Colombia star James Rodriguez was given especially rough treatment -- during the quarter-final match.
But the worry now is whether Brazil can defeat Germany in Tuesday's semi-final without their top scorer and their captain, Thiago Silva, who will miss the game following a second yellow card.
"Play For Him," read Lance, a sports newspaper. "Neymar will not return to the pitch, but the energy of a star never leaves the team. Now, more than ever, our warriors will give their all to bring the trophy to our number 10," Lance wrote.
The newspaper O Dia denounced the "criminal knee" hit of Zuniga in a front page titled: "We're going for it without him... And for him!"
"Brazil laments the loss of Neymar," wrote O Dia journalist Vitor Machado.
Antero Greco, columnist for O Estado de Sao Paulo, said Zuniga "committed a crime of national lese-majeste."
"But a large part of the blame for the incident is on referee Velasco Carbalo," Greco wrote.
O Globo newspaper's World Cup section ran the headline "A Blow to Brazil" along with a picture of Zuniga's foul. Globo columnist Renato Mauricio Prado wrote: "Brazil is in the semi-final. But can we dream without Neymar?"
Prado said Neymar had not played well before his injury on Friday but that the team managed to play well without him scoring. He also noted that Brazil won the 1962 World Cup after Pele was knocked out of the tournament. "The victory in spite of Neymar's bad performance ended up being a sort of hope: There is life in the team even without him," he wrote. "Can Willian (Neymar's probable replacement) turn into a new Amarildo (who replaced Pele in 1962)? Let's pray."