It’s that image. Neymar with his head in his hands on the bench after he called for the substitution with 13 minutes left of normal time to play.
Brazil’s first game of the World Cup and their star player is injured.
“Neymar has a sprain on the right ankle,” Brazil’s doctor said. “We started treatment immediately but we need to wait 24 hours to have a better assessment. We have nothing else scheduled. Now we need to wait and we cannot make any premature comments.”
But how was the ankle sprained? Was it only the sprained ankle or an accumulation of hits throughout the game?
After the first round of the group stages, Neymar was the most fouled player — nine times out of a total of 12 committed by Serbia. These are those nine fouls.
After Strahinja Pavlovic lost the ball in midfield, he was too keen to get it back — in the process, tackling Neymar from behind. Pavlovic got the ball but also plenty of Brazil’s No 10.
It wasn’t that malicious, though.
In this foul, Neymar dribbles past Sasa Lukic before the midfielder takes him down — via his left ankle to be precise.
If the previous foul isn’t bad, this is, with the Serbian directly hitting Neymar’s left ankle. But there was no booking.
This was one of the light ones. Nikola Milenkovic harries Neymar and lightly pushes him before the Serbia defender angrily alerts the referee about an alleged elbow to his mouth, presumably by Vinicius Jr.
Another Lukic incident on Neymar. Does Lukic clip Neymar or get the ball, or both? The reaction from the Serbians is mainly about a previously unpunished infringement.
Lukic’s challenge looks to be either a hit to the right side of the body, the leg or the ankle when considering Neymar’s body orientation and where the ball is.
This wasn’t a dangerous foul but a smart piece of play from Neymar, who used his body to shield the ball, then, once he felt contact, he went down. Smart and easy without getting hurt.
Tactical fouls like these have become commonplace. After Brazil win the ball back and Neymar is leading the offensive transition, Nemanja Gudelj goes looking to win the ball back…
…but he is late and decides to stop Neymar illegally by going through him.
This brings us to our first big damage. Gudelj’s left knee directly impacts Neymar’s right ankle.
The issue here isn’t just the force of the challenge. The tackle is late but Gudelj doesn’t even protest against the yellow card that he’s shown and raises his hand as some sort of apology.
It’s Lukic… again. This is not as bad a foul as the previous one from Gudelj but it’s questionable his hit at the bottom of Neymar’s right undoubtedly adds to the Brazil forward’s pain.
This is a familiar situation. Neymar is trying to dribble past a number of players…
…before Dusan Tadic brings him down by clipping his left leg.
Simply a routine foul in a non-dangerous area of the pitch, with Milenkovic upending Neymar as Brazil escaped pressure.
So how did Neymar sprain his ankle? Was it that Gudelj tackle?
That foul played its part but the sprain itself occurred in the 66th minute after Neymar accidentally placed his foot over Milenkovic’s foot.
During a Brazilian offensive transition, Milenkovic goes in for a last-ditch tackle…
…which he executes cleanly and gets the ball.
The concern for Brazil fans starts here, with Neymar left on the ground holding his right leg.
On closer inspection, we can see that Milenkovic connects with the ball cleanly…
…before Neymar steps on his foot…
…which unbalances the Brazilian and he sprains his ankle.
Despite the image giving the impression that Milenkovic knees Neymar’s right ankle. It’s an accident and an event that hopefully doesn’t force Neymar out of the World Cup.
After the game, Tite provided some reassurance. “We are confident that Neymar will continue playing in the World Cup.”
Losing Neymar would be the biggest blow imaginable to this Brazilian side. Even on an average day by his standards, he was central to both of their goals and could have scored himself.
His dribble forward for the first of Brazil’s goals, past three Serbia players, put Vinicius in a good shooting position before Richarlison scored the rebound.
If Neymar’s injury means that he may miss the rest of the tournament, it is not Brazil’s loss alone. It is the world’s loss as well.