Sports Soccer World Cup

Adversity gives Brazil a release valve for World Cup pressure

While Neymar's injury and Silva's suspension compromise Brazil's chances, there is some welcome fallout

The boys from Brazil have labored under the enormous stress of win-or-else expectations since the moment its roster was faxed (or emailed or texted) to World Cup headquarters.

Suddenly, while Neymar's injury and Thiago Silva's suspension compromise Brazil's chances of fulfilling its presumed destiny, there is some welcome fallout to the twin soccer calamities.

The intense pressure, which is widely assumed to have restrained Brazil's play early in the tournament, has been eased. No longer does it enter every match as a hefty wagering favorite. Its status as the prohibitive pick to own the tournament has expired.

With Neymar's diagnosis of a fractured bone in his back, followed by evidence of Silva's rocks in his head (for a mindless foul that prompted his second yellow card), the oddsmakers have recalibrated. Most of them list Brazil as a slight underdog against Germany in a semifinal on Tuesday. Those who don't tend to rate the match even.

The gap between Brazil and Everybody Else for winning the World Cup also has vanished. Several bookmaker sites have bunched Brazil, Germany and Argentina as tri-favorites.

Of course, Brazil would sell its soul for a miracle overnight healing of Neymar and good news from its federation's longshot appeal to FIFA seeking Silva's parole.

But the lightened load on their teammates' minds could translate into more relaxed play from Brazil's survivors. The nation of the five-time Cup champion might still anticipate adding a ring to its other hand. Now, it should find forgiveness in its heart if the team comes up short.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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