It’s official. Brazil will play on in the knockout rounds of the Copa America this week without Neymar. The team’s star player and captain was handed a four-match suspension after he apparently head-butted his Colombian opponent in the team’s second group-stage game. Brazil had the chance to appeal, but decided not to on Sunday after a Neymar-less team went on to win the group.
Neymar was shown smiling in the audience as he watched Brazil beat Venezuela, 2-1, to claim the top spot in Group C — arguably the toughest group in the competition. Being there but unable to help his team proved a lot more emotional.
On Monday, Neymar left the team’s training camp in Chile, noting in a heartfelt essay posted to Instagram that remaining there was offering him “no joy.
“Regardless of where I’ll be from now on, I’ll always follow Brazil, rooting for the success of my teammates, but staying here training is killing me inside,” he wrote in a long caption accompanying a photo of him with his team. “It’s awful to train without preparing for something and this could lead to an accidental injury which would make it even more difficult.”
Neymar said, while he strives to be a leader, he thought his presence in Chile would only be a distraction that “would take the focus away from the main purpose of Brazil.”
Neymar, who had previously blamed “weak refereeing” for his ejection, stopped short of offering a full apology for his behavior, but he did finally seem to accept some responsibility for the outcome.
“I apologize to my colleagues for putting myself in this situation, but I’m sure this was an important learning curve in my career.”
Since arriving back in Brazil, Neymar has been spending time with family, including his young son and his mother.
The rest of Team Brazil, meanwhile, is preparing to meet Paraguay on Saturday. The match is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. EDT on beIN Sports.