Brazil came to Russia with a strong team, a well-liked coach and a great star. They were the fans and pundits favorite to life the trophy and end their World Cup title drought.
But again the five-time world champions are leaving empty handed, knocked out in the quarter-finals to Belgium.
It was a bad blow for the Brazilians.
”I can say this is the saddest moment of my career,” said Neymar on Instagram. ”There is a lot of pain because we knew we could go further and make history. But it wasn’t meant to be. It’s difficult to find strength to want to play soccer again, but I’m sure God will give me enough strength to face anything.”
Neymar arrived with all the fan fare of being one of the best players in the world. The highest paid player in the world sparkled at times on the field, scoring twice, but the lasting impression he left on the tournament was his theatrics on the field, especially when he was hardly touched.
”I’m very happy to be a part of this team. I’m proud of everyone,” said Neymar, who hadn’t spoken publicly since the team’s elimination in Kazan. ”They interrupted our dream, but it lives on in our minds and hearts.”
By the time the next World Cup rolls around it will be 20 years since a Brazilian team led by Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho lifted the World Cup.
The Selecao regained its confidence and the trust of many Brazilians thanks to good results under coach Tite, who took over the national team in 2016. With only one loss under him, the five-time world champions arrived in Russia among the main title favorites.
”It’s hard for me to talk to you,” Tite said at the news conference after the match. ”The feeling is bitter. It’s very hard to be here.”
The coach has great support among fans back home despite the loss, and reports say the soccer federation wants him to stay for another World Cup cycle. Brazil hasn’t had the same coach for two straight World Cups since Mario Zagallo was at the helm in 1970 and 1974.
The question is whether Tite will want to stay – many say he already has offers from some top European teams.
”It’s not the right time to talk about the future,” Tite said. ”I can’t answer that question right now.”
From Brazil’s squad in Russia, 10 players will be 30 or younger by the tournament in Qatar in four years, including Neymar and Philippe Coutinho, who to many was the team’s best player at this World Cup.
Brazil’s next tournament is the Copa America at home next year.