Why didn't Neymar take a penalty? And how Brazil reacted to World Cup shootout defeat

  • In Sports
  • 2022-12-09 18:52:29Z
  • By The Telegraph
Neymar in tears - AFP
Neymar in tears - AFP  

There were times during Brazil's final game at this World Cup when Neymar wanted to do too much. As the match remained resolutely deadlocked into its second half, the Paris St-Germain forward dropped ever deeper, attempting to get on the ball, spin and force the issue for his team.

Here was leadership, Brazil's talisman rising to the occasion and ready at last to fulfil his destiny as his country's most important player for a generation. It came to fruition in the first half of extra time when after two swift one-twos he dummied Croatian goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic and finished high into an empty net. The Brazilian celebrations were too cathartic for any choreographed dances and went on for at least two minutes. It felt like job done.

How Brazil's fans will be wishing their captain showed his leadership skills again when the game was sent to an unlikely penalty shoot-out. Neymar did not feature as his team were dumped out 4-2, seemingly saving himself for a fifth kick which never came.

Instead, up stepped Rodrygo whose poor effort was saved. Casemiro and Pedro had better efforts but Marquinhos was tasked with the fourth kick to keep Brazil in the World Cup. He struck the foot of the post and Neymar was among the walking weeping in the centre circle, dumbfounded as Croatia's players celebrated around him.

It seemed curious that he shirked a penalty on the biggest stage. With a career record of 74 scored to 15 missed he clearly has the ability, and probably more experience from 12 yards than anyone in the Brazil squad. It is now assumed that the fourth kick is statistically one of the most important in a shootout, and it is often where a team's best penalty taker will be placed into the order.

Only Neymar and his coach will know why he was the exception to the rule.

How the Brazil and the footballing world reacted

The BBC's South American football expert Tim Vickery described the defeat as like "a death in the family" for Brazil fans. "That is what it is going to feel like in the next few hours," he said. "Croatia have sent the far bigger nation into mourning."

He added on Twitter: "Wonderful spectacle. Both teams rose to the challenge, answered questions posed against them. So cruel that it has to be remembered for individual errors. Brazil out with dignity, Croatia incredible."

Sat in the BBC studio, Jurgen Klinsmann heaped praise on Celtic right-back Josip Juranovic for his performance.

"He is basically telling Vinicius Junior, 'I am in charge here, I am the boss here'. This is a whole mental approach.

"He is saying, 'I don't care about you, you might be the best winger in the World Cup, I am going to go and maybe I am going to score'. And he almost scored."

Former England international Alex Scott was just as enthusiastic about Juranovic.

"He is not sitting back and worrying about the Brazilians and their overload down this side," she said.

"He is like, 'I am going to make you worry about me. I am going to drive forward and get into spaces when I can'.

"You change the point of attack and he needs to be there leading that attack. Look at his energy to get forward.

"Sometimes it has just been an option to be a bounce pass, it's nothing big, but it is allowing his team to keep possession and get up the field.

"He has been making Brazil worry about him. He has been doing it for the whole 45 minutes - pass and go and go at speed and drive into space. I absolutely love it. He has just been quality the whole (first) half."

Responding to the debate over why Neymar didn't step up to take a spot-kick, Rio Ferdinand added: "Lads in the studio all speaking on how your best penalty taker can't be left until last... he never takes a pen half the time... Neymar now left thinking what if."

However, rather than focus in on Neymar, many Brazilian journalists instead reflected on the heartbreak of defeat. Martin Fernandez of O Globo said: "The work of this talented generation of players deserved a different outcome. Football can be relentless."

His colleague João Pedro Fragoso said: "Tite deserved much more than this elimination. He made one of the best pre-World Cup preparations for the Brazilian team in a long time. It will be marked by second-half substitutions."

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