REPORTING FROM BRASILIA — Brazil is going on to the World Cup semifinals. But it's going on without its star player after dynamic striker Neymar was ruled out for the remainder of the tournament with a broken vertebra.
Goals by Thiago Silva and David Luiz, both off set pieces, ended Colombia's tournament, 2-1, Friday in Fortaleza and sent Brazil on to Tuesday's semifinal, where it will meet Germany.
But in the 88th minute, as Brazil was trying to run out the clock on its win, Neymar was carried off the field in tears after being kneed in the back by Juan Zuniga. He was taken directly to a hospital where team doctor Rodrigo Lasmar determined he had a fracture of the third vertebra.
The 22-year-old is expected to be out six weeks.
"It's not serious in the sense that it doesn't need surgery, but he'll need to immobilize it to recover," Lasmar said. "Unfortunately, he's not going to be able to play."
Brazilian Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, who said Neymar has been targeted throughout the tournament, knew it was serious when Neymar left the field.
"He was crying out in pain," Scolari said. "Everyone knows Neymar was going to be hunted."
Also out of the semifinal is Silva, the team captain, who drew his second yellow card Friday.
Almost lost in all that was the quarterfinal, Brazil's best game of the tournament so far. The host country pressured from the opening kickoff and got a break in the seventh minute when a too-strong Neymar corner missed everybody in front of the goal. But the ball took a fortunate bounce near the far post, allowing Silva to redirect it into the net with his left leg.
Luiz's goal came in the 69th minute on a laser-like free kick from about 30 yards.
Crushed by the heavy expectations of its countrymen, Brazil has struggled to find form in this tournament. But on Friday the team responded with its most complete and freewheeling performance yet.
And they needed all of that against a hard-working, underrated Colombian team that had quickly become a tournament favorite. Brazil dominated in virtually every statistical category, especially possession, controlling the ball nearly 60% of the time. Despite that, Colombia appeared to have tied the game in the 67th minute when Mario Yepes scored after a wild scramble in front of the net.
But the goal was waved off by an offside call. And moments later Luiz made it 2-0 — a score that proved important when Colombia finally got on the scoreboard with a penalty kick in the 80th minute. Not surprisingly the goal came from James Rodriguez, who leads this World Cup with six scores, making him the second-youngest player in tournament history with that many goals, trailing only Pele, who was 17 when he scored six times in 1958.
Moments later it was Rodriguez who left the field in tears, his World Cup having ended. But not before his team made history, advancing to the quarterfinals for the first time and winning more games here — four — than in its previous four World Cup appearances combined.