El World Cup Diario, Day 25: Neymar has a dream...

Nick Harper on Day 25 of the World Cup, as Brazil's poster boy keeps on believing despite his broken back...

Nobody is ever likely to mistake the scrawny Brazilian showpony Neymar da Silva Santos Junior for the leading civil rights activist Martin Luther King, or so you wouldn't think.

And yet on Day 25 of this World Cup, young Neymar Jnr followed in Luther King's revolutionary footsteps by delivering his very own "I Have A Dream" oratory.

Of course, Martin Luther King's historic address back in 1963 spoke of his dream of creating a world of equality and was credited with the advancement of civil rights in the US and beyond. Neymar's dream isn't quite so ambitious.

He dreams of giving up football and ploughing his fortune into schools, hospitals and affordable housing for Brazil's desperate underclas... ah of course not. He dreams of still somehow winning this World Cup and getting his hands on one of those big gold medals, cos that would make for one sick little selfie.

"My dream isn't over," he announced. "It was interrupted by a play but it continues. I’m certain that my team-mates will do everything possible so that my dream – to be a champion – comes true."

Never mind that Neymar Jnr suffered a fracture to the transverse process of one his lumbar vertebra on Friday night during that 'play', leading Brazil to the World Cup semi-finals that he can now play no part in.

Never mind that Brazil's captain Thiago Silva is also missing from that game, suspended, appeal pending but with no chance of being granted a pass.

Never mind that his possible replacement Willian injured himself in training yesterday and may also miss out. Never mind even that they will face the eventual champions and trusty grinders Germany in the semi-finals.

Never mind any of that because Neymar still thinks Brazil can win this World Cup. "I am sure they will win this cup and be champions," he said, recuperating at home in his big gold bed. "And I will be with them, and all Brazilians will soon be celebrating all of that." Amen to that.

Now while Neymar Jnr was delivering his dream, Brazil were beginning the hunt for the scapegoat they will need when they eventually crash out of the tournament on Tuesday. His name, of course, is Juan Zuniga, and lucky for him that he arrived back in Colombia yesterday, where he should probably be safe.

Not completely safe though, because Brazil’s double World Cup-winning striker Ronaldo branded Zuniga's challenge on Neymar as "evil" and "violent" and demanded that FIFA mete out swift and decisive justice. "We have to demand sanctions be given to violent players," said Ron. "I am in favour of very severe sanctions to those who don’t want to play football and just want to do such violent tackles. It was an evil tackle.”

Leaping into action with characteristic vim, FIFA confirmed they are already all over it. "The disciplinary committee is analysing the matter," said a spokeswoman. "The spirit of fair play is very important and we want to avoid difficult things on the field of play.”

Of course, a more cynical diary than this might wonder if this celebrated 'spirit of fair play' was in evidence when Brazil were attempting to decapitate James Rodriguez every time he touched the ball, even going as far as to throw a praying mantis at him.

Some of the challenges they dished out might be classed as the very definition of 'violent' and possibly 'evil', and almost every last one went unpunished by the referee – who had presumably been reminded of FIFA's dedication to fair play in the tunnel beforehand. But hey, as ever, FIFA knows best.

For his part, Zuniga offered a grovelling apology. "I feel burdened by this situation," he wrote, having touched down with his team-mates to a heroes' welcome in Bogota. "It resulted from a normal play and there was no bad intention, evil or recklessness from my part. I want to send a special salute to Neymar."

Sadly, Zuniga didn't speculate on what kind of special salute this special salute might be, but given the injustice Colombia endured on Friday, it could well be of the two-fingered variety.

Speaking of dreams, El Diario has one of his own.

It's not as weighty as Martin Luther King's, but it's still a dream and it is this. Having witnessed four quarter-finals that pretty much underwhelmed at every turn, El Diario's dream now is for the four teams left to remember what it was that had made this World Cup such a remarkable spectacle.

Yes, we dream simply of teams being set up to attack with almost reckless abandon again and to reject the negativity that gripped the previous round.

We dream that Brazil, Germany, Argentina and Holland will stop being so petrified of losing and just go for each others' jugulars from the very first minute to the very last. (Within the parameters of FIFA's famed 'spirit of fair play', of course.)

Because with just three (significant) games remaining now, is that really too much to ask?


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