‘BRAZIL pays tribute to Neymar with touching gesture before Germany clash’ read one headline before Tuesday night’s World Cup semi-final.
On arrival at Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte almost every member of Luiz Felipe Scolari’s squad was sporting a white baseball cap bearing the slogan #ForcaNeymar – meaning “Be strong Neymar” – emblazoned on the front in black.
With the Barcelona striker ruled out of the game, and the competition, due to a fractured vertebra suffered in the host nation’s quarter final win over Colombia, a country had gone into meltdown.
David Luiz, who captained the side in the absence of Thiago Silva, stood arm in arm with goalkeeper Julio Cesar during the national anthem, clutching the number 10’s shirt.
A nation was already in mourning.
Little wonder they went on to suffer the biggest humiliation in not only their history but that of the World Cup at this stage of the finals.
They were already defeated.
Yes, Neymar is an important player. But he wasn’t there.
There was nothing he could do to affect that game, and yet such emphasis was put on him rather than the many more multi-million pound players at their disposal.
Surely it would have been better to concentrate on what they had instead of what they hadn’t.
That is certainly Burnley manager Sean Dyche’s philosophy.
When Danny Ings was injured in mid-March last season, forcing the top scorer to miss almost a month of action, the Clarets’ promotion push was expected to collapse. It didn’t.
When his prolific strike partner Sam Vokes had his season cut short by a serious knee injury before Ings returned to action, again Burnley were again expected to ‘blow up’. They didn’t.
Why? Because Dyche saw their absence as an opportunity for someone else, and instilled belief into the ones stepping in.
January signing Ashley Barnes, for example, got his first start and scored in his second in a 3-0 win at Charlton Athletic to keep momentum going.
When Kieran Trippier missed three weeks with injury, Chris Baird came in to steady the ship.
Whenever there was a problem, Dyche found a solution, and that mentality will be more valuable than ever this season in the Premier League.
Burnley are the ‘have nots’ financially, but what they have is a strong team ethic and a manager who believes any barrier is breakable, as opposed to their spirit.