One of the most heartwarming moments of the 2022 FIFA World Cup has taken place amid one of the most devastating in Brazil’s football history.
Croatia stunned tournament favourites Brazil to reach the World Cup semi-finals in the early hours of Saturday morning AEDT, winning 4-2 on penalties after a nailbiting match finished 1-1 at the end of extra time.
It was a remarkable turnaround after Brazil had looked set for victory when Neymar opened the scoring with a wonderful strike midway through extra time that allowed him to equal Pele’s Brazilian record of 77 international goals.
However ecstasy soon turned to despair for the Brazilian superstar as Croatia came from nowhere to snatch victory in what will go down as their greatest ever World Cup triumph.
Neymar was left in the middle of the pitch in tears surrounded by support staff and supporting players as the realisation of Brazil’s early World Cup exit hit home.
Watch the world’s best footballers every week with beIN SPORTS on Kayo. LIVE coverage from Bundesliga, Ligue 1, Serie A, Carabao Cup, EFL & SPFL. New to Kayo? Start your free trial now >
But as Neymar’s emotions overflowed it was the unlikeliest of allies who came to put a smile on the 30-year-old’s face.
The young son of Croatian football Ivan Perisic rushed over to Neymar to console him.
After initially being denied by security, the child shook hands with and hugged the Paris Saint-Germain forward.
For the briefest of moments it brought a smile to Neymar’s face, while delighting football fans around the world.
Neymar will have little appetite for celebration given his World Cup exit, despite equalling Pele’s record tally of 77 goals for Brazil with his brilliant strike.
The forward fired home from close range in extra-time to put Brazil ahead and draw level with Pele, who scored his goals between 1957 and 1971.
Neymar beat Croatia goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic and converted from a tight angle in stoppage time in the first additional period.
However, Bruno Petkovic levelled in the 117th minute, with Croatia winning the shootout 4-2.
Pele, who was recently hospitalised during treatment for colon cancer, is the only player in history to win three World Cups.
The 82-year-old triumphed in 1958, 1962 and 1970 with the Selecao and said earlier this week he was watching his country play in Qatar from hospital.
Five-time winners Brazil last lifted the World Cup in 2002, eight years before Neymar made his international debut.
The Paris Saint-Germain forward star has earned iconic status in his country but has been frustrated on the biggest stage.
He scored a penalty against South Korea in the last 16 on his return from injury, having missed the previous two matches in Qatar.
Brazil players unfurled a banner in tribute to Pele after that emphatic 4-1 victory on Monday.
However they will be heading home early after their surprise defeat despite coming into the tournament as favourites.
Story Credit: news.com.au