Host Country: Qatar Dates: 20 November to 18 December Coverage: Live on BBC TV, BBC iPlayer, BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Sounds and the BBC Sport website and app. Daily TV Listings – Full Coverage Details
It shouldn’t end like this.
Brazil had danced into the quarter-finals of the World Cup, but their dreams of a showcase gig in the final ended in tears at Education City Stadium.
Croatia trained the samba stars on penalties to end hopes of a sixth triumph as they were once again knocked out of the competition by a European nation.
It looked like Neymar would be the hero as he opened the scoring in extra time to equal Pele’s official goalscoring record for the men’s side, but as the fifth penalty taker, he left the field in tears after what might be his last World Cup pass .
After the game, it was confirmed that head coach Tite would be leaving his job as the 61-year-old failed to add to his Copa America triumph in 2019, while Neymar hinted at his international retirement.
“It is indeed very difficult,” Tite said after the defeat. “But it’s the end of my cycle with the Brazilian national team. I said that a year and a half agoexternal link.”
South American football expert Tim Vickery said on BBC Radio 5 Live: “This is death in the family.
“That’s how it will feel for the Brazilian fans in the next few hours. Croatia sent the much larger nation into mourning. It will hurt for a long time.”
“I hope the public won’t turn against them. The Brazilian crowd can be vicious. I hope there won’t be any negative backlash because this team doesn’t deserve it.”
Should Neymar have taken the first penalty?
The first 90 minutes were riveting, but the teams couldn’t be separated and the battle went into overtime.
Croatia have featured in eight of their last nine knockout games in major tournaments, and after that there has been just one result.
Neymar thought he stood up for his country when they needed him most and shot in the net to complete a nifty team move.
The 106th-minute goal was his 77th international goal and drew level with the great Pelé, according to Fifa records.
But Bruno Petkovic’s equalizer four minutes from time – the Croatians’ only shot on target – saved a hope of progression, which they decided on penalties.
This time it was the opposition who danced as a disconsolate Neymar sank onto the pitch with tears streaming down his cheeks.
He was supposed to be the fifth penalty taker but didn’t get that opportunity after Marquinhos hit the post to seal their fate.
The same sad ending has happened before.
At his home World Cup in 2014, Neymar’s participation was cut short by a back injury and four years ago they were beaten by Belgium at the same stage.
Here he was one of the last players to leave the field, Brazil’s fans sat in disbelief in the stands, their hopes for Qatar dead.
“Neymar was fifth because that’s the crucial one,” said Tite. “There’s more pressure and the players who are more mentally prepared should take that last penalty.”
But former Germany striker Jürgen Klinsmann disagreed on BBC One, saying: “He would have been my best penalty taker. You need him to set the tone.”
“End of the Dream”
Brazil’s World Cup was ended by a European nation for the sixth year in a row, and most recently they beat a team from that continent in the 2002 final against Germany.
That was also the last of their five World Cup triumphs and it has been 20 years since a non-European side lifted the trophy.
The statistics read bleakly for Brazil.
The South American side started slowly, failing to score in the first half of six of the competition’s last seven games.
Had Vinicius Junior or Neymar missed the chances presented to them in the opening stages, the outcome might have been different.
Tite’s men also became the first team in World Cup history to be eliminated from a knockout game by scoring the opening goal in overtime.
The last time a world-ranked nation reached the semi-finals was Brazil in 1998.
“It’s not just me losing, the whole team is losing,” Tite said. “We tried to focus on chances and completion. Our strategy was to add volume – we had 19 chances and 11 shots on goal. They couldn’t have a shot on target.
“I understand that I am the one responsible, but we are all to blame for this loss. This is football. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.”
Brazilian President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Twitter: external link “Brazil worked hard. Neymar scored a beautiful goal and the team deserved better. My respect to the players and the coach.
“Let’s keep going because in life we can never give up.”
The Brazilian website Globo Esporte lamented the “end of the dream” on its homepage.
It was for Tite, his players and all Brazilian fans.
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