Brazil will have to make due without its best player for the remainder the 2015 Copa America tournament. On Friday, South America’s soccer governing body suspended Neymar for four games for his role in a tiff that broke out after Brazil lost, 1-0, to Colombia in a group round game earlier this week. In addition, CONMEBOL’s disciplinary board fined the Selacao captain $10,000.
Neymar, who had already racked up two yellow cards in the tournament, was booked for a red card while exiting the field on Wednesday after he seemingly head-butted his opponent.
Brazil has the right to appeal, but the squad has not yet said whether it will.
Neymar also did not have an immediate reaction to the board’s decision on Friday, but earlier he had maintained his innocence and instead blamed “weak” refereeing for his troubles.
“The rules are always used against me,” the 23-year-old told SporTV after Wednesday’s match. “Put a weak referee in to official and this happens. Nothing made me crazy. I just get angry with referees who don’t whistle right.”
Neymar is now the second of Barcelona’s famous triad of strikers, which includes Lionel Messi of Argentina and Luis Suarez of Uruguay, to exit the tournament prematurely. Suarez, in fact, never even entered the tournament, as he is still serving a nine-match FIFA-imposed ban for biting an opponent during last summer’s World Cup.
Messi, the best of the three, pledges to be in the tournament till the end.
“I would give it all up to win the Copa America,” he told Argentina’s La Nacion (via Copa America) this week. “This group deserves it for the way they fight. We had a great World Cup and we deserve it.”
He will now have an easier path thanks to Neymar’s exit, which leaves Brazil without a team anchor and in a four-way tie in Group C. To ensure a spot in the knockout round, the team will have to beat a surprisingly strong Venezuelan squad on Sunday. Philippe Coutinho or Douglas Costa are the two most likely candidates to take Neymar’s spot.