Neymar Jr stood there, face to face with Luka Modric, but his eyes were not fixated on the Croat’s blonde locks. Instead, he was looking into the future, into the multiverse, as he usually does before pulling off the impossible, all possible variations of the upcoming actions being calculated furiously in his computer brain as it simultaneously connected with the hive mind of the rest of the yellow bees on the pitch. Then he flicked the switch, and passed the ball to Rodrygo before slipping to the other side Modric and receiving the ball, 5 metres closer to goal.
He continued sending invisible signals, be it pheromones or sound waves, to Lucas Paquetá, who mirrored the action the Real Madrid winger carried out moments before, acting as a vertical trampoline for the ball to bounce back to Neymar, now in the box.
Neymar’s teamwork was done, and now he just needed unparalleled individual talent to score; easy, he has that in abundance, and his skip past goalkeeper Livakovic looked effortless before he slammed the ball into the net to finally break the protection spell that Croatia had kept alive for so long.
But none of it matters. Because the Croatians waved their wands again and somehow managed to pull the plug from the Brazilian computer, scoring with moments to go. Penalties arrived and Marquinhos missed after Rodrygo had done the same, meaning the Europeans somehow had squeezed through; the tournament favourites were out at the quarter-final stage.
Marquinhos missed the key penalty in the shootout.MATTHEW CHILDSREUTERS
How many times have Brazil lost the quarter-finals of a World Cup?
It feels as though Brazil should win just about every World Cup they play in; for sure, losing in a quarter-final feels like a disaster. Sell the shirts at 30%, get them off our shelves in any way you can, they are obviously cursed, for this is a nightmare.
But, thinking about it like a normal person, is this normal for the Brazilians to go out so early? Well, the Qatar World Cup exit at the quarter-final stage is actually the most common finish for the record-winners. They have left the tournament at the final 8 on six separate occasions: 1954, 1986, 2006, 2010, 2018 and now 2022. In the last World Cup, in Russia, they lost to Belgium. In 2010, they lost to the Netherlands and before that, in 2006, they lost to France.
To balance out the statistics, it must be said that their next best finish is in fact first, which they have done 5 times, more than any other nation on earth. So, Brazilians, it’s not all bad news.