Although Juan Camilo Zúñiga probably did not realise it at the time, his challenge on Neymar in the closing stages of Brazil’s quarter-final win over Colombia has changed the complexion of this World Cup.
The inquest in the Brazilian media began almost immediately: opinion pieces riddled words like “cowardly” and “criminal” occupied far more column inches than the result itself the following morning; medical diagrams of the spine had been printed in every sport pullout in the country by Sunday.
You would have thought by the reaction that someone had died rather than been ruled out of two football matches. But then Neymar, perhaps the most beloved Brazilian out there at this moment in history, is of such importance to Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side that the sense of loss is understandable.
Yet there is an argument to be made – albeit one that requires something of a leap of faith – that Zúñiga has done Brazil a favour. While Neymar’s absence will be keenly felt on the field, the Seleção may just have stumbled into a psychological landscape that suits them perfectly.
Read the rest of this piece on the Mirror website.