Reda Maher

Brazil 360: FIFA keeps cool under pressure to exact revenge for Neymar

Reda Maher

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FIFA has its problems, but it appears to be fairly moderate when it comes to disciplinary issues.

I write this in the aftermath of the disciplinary committee’s decision to reject Brazil’s appeal against Thiago Silva’s one-match ban – and to take no further action against Colombia’s Juan Zuniga for causing an injury that ruled Neymar out of the World Cup.

FIFA resisted widespread calls for Uruguay’s Luis Suarez to be banned from football for a year, or even life, after a third biting incident in his career.

While there were complaints that the nine-match international and four-month global suspensions were harsh – particularly on Liverpool – most agreed them to be reasonable compromises which allow the player to get the help he needs to manage his anger.

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Following Brazil’s 2-1 quarter-final win over Colombia, FIFA was under a different kind of pressure.

Silva, the Paris Saint-Germain defender and Brazil’s most accomplished stopper, received a second booking in the tournament and is thus suspended for the semi-final against Germany.

Brazil appealed that yellow card, but they were clearly trying it on – the ex-Milan man needlessly fouled goalkeeper David Ospina, an act of stupidity and petulance.

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His absence is worrying but not terminal for Brazil as Dante will come into the team, the Bayern Munich defender well-acquainted with his opponents in Belo Horizonte.

Of far greater concern is the back injury to Neymar, which has left Brazil in a state of semi-panic, and resulted in death threats and racist abuse aimed at Zuniga.

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There is no doubt that Zuniga’s intervention was unfair, but it was hardly the brutal execution some have portrayed; roughhouse challenges are part of the game. FIFA were also spot on to point out the severity of the injury should play no part in their assessment of the foul itself: “The conditions by which the FIFA… can intervene in any incident have to be considered independently of the consequences of that incident, such as an unfortunate injury suffered by a player.”

Praise for FIFA, eh? Whatever next. But they are absolutely correct – players cannot go into battle fearful they may pick up a suspension for accidentally injuring an opponent while making a regulation challenge, fair or otherwise. That FIFA pointed this out, in my opinion, marks their view that Neymar’s injury was not proportionate to the nature of Zuniga’s foul.

FIFA also stated the technical basis for their rejection of Brazil’s demand to an inquiry – that a referee’s decision can only be overturned in case of a clear error of mistaken identity in the display of a card, or if a violent incident is missed in play (such as Suarez’s bite on Chiellini). But that is just a technicality, as the reference to independence of cause and effect was highlighted.

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Neymar’s absence is a shame – FIFA even wished him well in its official statement – but rules cannot be rewritten to suit the outpouring of emotion from the host nation.

As I stated earlier and have written on in some length, FIFA is a difficult organisation to sympathise with – but in instances of discipline at this World Cup, it has just about got things right. Apart from the diving, of course…

Eurosport’s Reda Maher is on location in Brazil for the duration of the 2014 World Cup - follow him on Twitter @Reda_Eurosport

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