The scenes of Neymar being flown out on a stretcher in a helicopter after suffering a broken vertebrae from a collision with Juan Zuniga are hard to swallow for many in the soccer world. This was supposed to be the 2014 World Cup taken over by a young Brazilian star. However, the match between Colombia and Brazil was physical from the opening whistle with a referee who refused to show cards. Referee Carlos Velasco Carballo let the game get out of control, so players were less worried about getting booked.
The Spanish referee was tracked down outside a bathroom in a Rio de Janeiro airport by English media who were on the same flight from Fortaleza. One fan of Colombia let him know how she felt about all the free kicks Brazil were awarded while fouls on James Rodriguez went unpunished. The line between a dirty challenge and a tactical foul can be thin, but home team bias was easily conjured up by many watching with the number of fouls on the budding star from Colombia.
Velasco Carballo is known as a disciplinarian in La Liga, but when pressed for more information, he said he cannot talk about his reasoning during the match. He called a total of 54 fouls, but only produced four yellow cards. The 54 fouls were the highest total in the World Cup thus far. The referee lost control of the match and Brazil’s targeting of Rodriguez became more and more obvious.
Then the injury to Neymar occurred even if Zuniga did not have intent. Surely Zuniga saw the amount of physicality that happened in the match that did not produce a card. Zuniga was not alone in noticing how Velasco Carballo was handling the match. If most fouls are just considered petty or tactical, then why not take more chances?
Hulk thought that Neymar was being targeted, citing the number of times it occurred in other matches. Colombia was a tough matchup for Brazil and simply fed off of the tactics employed by the home team. Every time Rodriguez touched the ball, he was trying to avoid rough tackles. If numerous challenges, even by the same player, go unnoticed, then following suit seems natural.
Injured Colombian star Falcao took to twitter to call out the referee. In the tweet below, he says, “For the next match, remember to call the referee, who today didn’t show up.”
Para el próximo partido acuérdense de llamar al árbitro que hoy no vino.
— Radamel Falcao (@FALCAO) July 4, 2014
FIFA could launch investigations against Velasco Carballo and Zuniga, but it is unlikely that anything would come of either. Unfortunately for Neymar and Colombia, he crumbled under the pressure of a World Cup match between CONMEBOL foes. It was a poor performance and tainted the quarterfinal.