Brazil is coming to terms with losing Neymar from the World Cup. Ahead of the semi-final against Germany everyone continues to talk about him. He won’t be easy to replace, perhaps voodoo might help?
The reporter is speaking quickly and dramatically. But actually, at the moment, nothing is happening. Behind him is the entrance to a well-secured housing area, and no-one can be seen.
But the words keep coming from the reporter of "Globo News", a Brazilian news channel, who continues to explain that nothing is happening here, at Neymar's house. After all, Neymar is the news of the day. The football star's hometown, Guaruja, is a coastal town in the state of Sao Paulo with a population of 300,000. At the moment, it's full of journalists.
A full three days after the brutal foul by Colombia's Juan Zuniga that ended Neymar's World Cup campaign, the 22-year-old remains the main story in the Brazilian media. "He is very sad, but he is okay," says the "Globo News" reporter, citing friends of Neymar as his source.
Sidelined, but still involved
TV channels across Brazil filmed his arrival at the hospital for treatment after the quarterfinal and his onward transport home via helicopter. There, his teammates in his old team at FC Santos were interviewed, a doctor gave a long explanation of Neymar's injury to "Band News" with a model of a human backbone and even his teammates in the team base at Teresopolis are basically only being asked about him. He's even provided a video message to fans after his injury (see below).
During the quarterfinal between the Netherlands and Costa Rica singing from the stands was focused on Neymar, not on any of the teams involved in the match. Neymar is out of the tournament, but he is still in the spotlight.
The atmosphere at the moment in Brazil fluctuates between doubt, reflection, defiance and unending hope. Shortly before the semi-final match against Germany, everyone has their own view of their team's chances.
"It will be very difficult without Neymar," says waitress Anna Lucia, who lives just a few hundred meters away from the German team base in Santo Andre. "It's nice that the German team is here. That's good for the region. But we all hope now for a win for Brazil."
Taxi driver Luis is a little more upbeat "We will beat Germany, no problem, even without Neymar," he says, sounding as if he is trying to convince himself.
Did Scolari tip wrong?
As the whole country continues to worry about Neymar's health, in Teresopolis, Brazil's team management is focused on finding a suitable replacement for Neymar. But is that even possible? Not really. The Selecao's system was completely focused on Neymar and dependent on his speed and goal-scoring ability.
Experts criticized that ahead of the tournament but national team coach Luiz Felipe Scolari still opted for basing the game around Neymar. That could be easily seen on the field. All 10 goals for Brazil in this World Cup came through the middle of the pitch, the area where Neymar guides and directs the Brazilian gameplan. He was involved in half of the team's goals so far.
Of the other 22 players in the squad, there's no-one that can now really slip into Neymar's role easily. But coach Felipao, as they call him here, will have to find a solution fast. Could it be striker Fred? It would seem unlikely: the Fluminense striker is responsible for another role in Scolari's system.
He is a target for the long passes and then holds the ball until someone arrives who is better with the ball, like Neymar. Fred hasn't been too convincing yet up front, and the local fans don't really like his un-Brazilian style of play.
If Scolari is looking for a fast player to take over Neymar's role, then Willian could do the job. He is fast and loves to attack, but he is not efficient enough in front of goal, often missing chances for both his club and his national team. It's the same story for the diminutive Bernard: he has great ball skills, but just isn't dangerous enough up front.
Perhaps, Hernanes, who plays his club football for Inter Milan in Italy, could be the best bet. He is a gifted all-rounder and can guide attacking moves. The problem is, he's down on game time: he's only played 31 minutes so far at this World Cup.
Maybe Scolari will have to reconsider his tactics if he can't find an adequate Neymar replacement. That way he can share the attacking load between a number of players. But the question remains: is it too late to change the playing system now in the tournament?
When all else fails, try voodoo
Perhaps, the Brazilian national team coach should just rely on the help of Helio Sillman. He is a voodoo practitioner in Rio de Janeiro and a big fan of the national team. In order to support Brazil in their quest to get to the final in the Maracana, he says he wants to put a curse on Germany.
"I will take the top players and tie their legs together, so that they can't run on the pitch," Helio Sillman said, to news agency SID. Of course, Sillmann means the legs of his voodoo puppets, not the actual players themselves.
Perhaps, it will help. After all, in these days, without Neymar, football fans in Brazil need all the support they can get. Sadly, voodoo won't be able to bring Neymar back to health to play in the semi or the final. Experts say that his back injury will see him out of action for at least a month.