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The Lowest Point of the 2014 World Cup

It is hard to pinpoint the best moment of the World Cup so far. Was it Van Persie’s amazing “dolphin” goal? Messi’s cannon shot of goal at the end of the game against Bosnia? Tim Howard’s 16 saves in the game against Belgium? Or perhaps David Luiz’s missile into the Colombian net? There are many more beautiful moments such as this that we will enjoy re-watching for years to come, moments that fill the fans’ hearts and launch thousands of tweets and facebook posts full of admiration. But the ugliest moment in the World Cup, the lowest point, was Colombian player Zuñiga’s strike on Neymar. It was a cowardly act of extreme violence and will be forever remembered as one of the Colombian squad’s more memorable legacies to this Cup.

Brazilian social media is abuzz about whether this barbaric act that left Brazil’s number 10 shirt, and number 1 striker out of the Cup for good. Was this a pre-planned strike? Was it a parting shot born out of envy against a team the Colombians couldn’t possibly beat? It is doubtful it was something previously orchestrated. And as sorry as Brazilians are to see our superstar leave the Cup, knowing full well that Brazil may not advance on account of his absence, to latch on to conspiracy theories is the realm of the weak-minded and unimaginative. And that is not what Brazilians are. What is more likely is that the offending player himself was dead set on hurting Neymar as much as possible. He threw a knee to Neymar’s back shattering his vertebra, and then shoved his head on the ground finishing the job with a break. The severity of the injury may not have been calculated, but the extent of the damage was certainly intended. Zuñiga wanted a broken Neymar out of the pitch, and he achieved just that.

While the game against Colombia was on the surface technically and tactically a much easier affair for the Brazilian national squad than the games against Mexico, Croatia, or Chile, Brazilian players suffered tremendous amount of violence throughout the game. Soccer is a contact sport, injuries are common, some out of carelessness, some out of callousness. But this was a vicious and ugly attack that left the host nation without its greatest player. The whole sport of soccer suffers when something this disgraceful happens, I would go so far as to say that sport in general suffers when this base level of sheer violence is brought in to it. Can you imagine if this had been done to Zidane in ’98? It is not uncommon for teams that are frustrated by their own lack of competence to react with brutality against the winning squad, and this is exactly what happened here.

As the great Rabbi Berkowitz once said “the best revenge is to live well.” And live well Brazilians will. Brazilian fans see their Seleção qualify every time there is a World Cup, and for the lucky ones like myself, they get to see Brazil win a few as well (twice for me, so far). Fans of other teams meanwhile watch again and again in despair as their national teams fail to even make it to the Cup, much less win the coveted trophy. And that is revenge enough. Brazilian fans will continue to celebrate their amazing players that have brought so much grace and beauty to the greatest sporting event on Earth generation after generation, without any of the blemish of violence and envy.


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Category: Culture, Sport


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