World Cup round: BRA-COL, FRA-GER (July 4)
Brazil 2, Colombia 1
RIO DE JANEIRO — A somber mood spread over Brazil on Saturday as football fans slowly came to grips with the loss of star striker Neymar, whose fractured vertebra knocked him out of the World Cup.
Brazil's top newspapers featured front-page spreads of Neymar on the turf after he took a knee to the back during the 2-1 quarterfinal win over Colombia, crying out in pain. The host nation's hopes for a sixth World Cup title had rested mostly on the shoulders of the 22-year-old forward.
The cover of top sports newspaper Lance stated simply: "Play For Him."
Lance's online version included headlines the "The sixth title will be for him!" and "The Brazilian team is going to bleed for Neymar."
Rio de Janeiro's O Globo paper headlined its special Cup section: "Without him, can it be?"
Yet hopes weren't completely stamped out.
Juca Kfouri, one of Brazil's most influential sports commentators, wrote in the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper in a column titled "Impossible?" that, yes, Brazil faces an immense challenge against the powerful Germany team in the semifinals on Tuesday.
Neymar is out and captain Thiago Silva is suspended, after picking up two yellow cards.
"The Germans are not only the favorites, they're a sure thing," Kfouri wrote. "And therein lies the danger — for them."
Brazil is infamous for grinding bureaucracy that makes the simplest of tasks seemingly impossible — which many believe has made the Brazilian people more creative, more resilient and has given rise to an entire philosophy known in Portuguese as "jeitinho"— or the Brazilian Way.
"Our 'jeitinho' should help Brazil overcome Neymar's absence," said Leandro Santos, a 30-year-old restaurant manager in Sao Paulo. "Brazilians always find unexpected ways to deal with problems and setbacks — and I think that's what this team will do."
France 0, Germany 1
IO DE JANEIRO — It just wouldn't be the World Cup without Germany in the semifinals.
Harnessing all their big-game experience, the Germans delivered a performance of maturity and efficiency to hold off France 1-0 and become the first team to reach four straight semifinals in the sport's marquee tournament.
Defender Mats Hummels scored the winning goal in the 13th minute, outmuscling his marker at a free kick to glance a header in off the underside of the crossbar.
Criticized for poor defending in earlier matches, Germany selected a more robust lineup and restricted a flat France team to only a handful of clear-cut opportunities in muggy conditions.
"There was not much in it," France coach Didier Deschamps said. But, "we don't have the international experience Germany has."
While France's young players slumped to the ground and some shed tears after the final whistle, the Germans soberly saluted all corners of the Maracana Stadium.
One job done, nothing more.
And next up for Germany is a meeting with host nation Brazil. It will be Germany's 13th appearance in the semifinals in 20 editions of the World Cup.
"I guess we're playing the kind of football which will give us a chance to win," said Hummels, who produced a couple of decisive blocks to snuff out two good chances for France striker Karim Benzema.
"We defended well today. I think we deserve to carry on."
France struggled to impose the kind of attacking game that made the team one of the most exciting in Brazil during the group stage, although Benzema — the team's chief attacking threat — squandered chances in both halves.