SANTIAGO: Brazil superstar Neymar was sent off as the five-time world champions crashed to a 1-0 Copa America defeat against Colombia here on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila).
In sensational scenes after the final whistle, Neymar was shown a red card after an ugly melee involving players of both sides in which he appeared to aim a headbutt at Colombia goalscorer Jeison Murillo.
Colombia striker Carlos Bacca was also shown red following the fracas at the end of a frenetic Group C battle.
Neymar had already ensured he would miss Brazil’s final first round game against Venezuela on Sunday by collecting his second yellow card of the tournament for a deliberate handball in the first half.
Three teams — Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela — now have three points in Group C.
Neymar’s Brazil and Barcelona teammate Dani Alves lashed out at Chilean referee Enrique Osses following the defeat.
“Referees have to stop thinking that they are the stars, the stars are not them — they are there to control the game,” Alves fumed.
“We are used to this in South America — everyone here is against Brazil.”
Alves also accused Colombia’s players of seeking to provoke Neymar, 12 months after the striker suffered a broken vertebra during the two teams’ stormy World Cup last eight battle.
“They know the personality of Neymar and they went in search of him,” he said.
“They tried to provoke him and make him nervous.”
Victory was sweet for Colombia, who were subjected to rough-house tactics from Brazil last year during the World Cup in a 2-1 quarter-final exit, a match scarred by a whopping 54 fouls.
“We had a great gameplan and it worked today,” said Colombia’s Real Madrid star James Rodriguez.
“Four days ago we lost to Venezuela when we played well, tonight we played well and beat Brazil, sometimes it happens like that.”
A pulsating opening 45 minutes saw Colombia gradually get on top after a frantic start dominated by defense.
Brazil, who brought in Thiago Silva at center-back in place of David Luiz, defended in depth throughout, dropping back in numbers and frustrating Colombia’s attack.
Colombia also gave no quarter, with defensive midfielder Carlos Sanchez breaking up Brazil’s attacks in midfield and restricting the five-time world champions to hardly any shots on goal.
Colombia slowly began to get the better of their opponents however, and soon started to threaten.
A Sanchez shot deflected just wide of Brazilian defender Miranda just after the half-hour mark and then on 36 minutes the breakthrough came.
Cuadrado’s teasing free-kick from the right flank dropped into the area and when Brazil failed to clear, Murillo was on hand to rifle in a low shot past Jefferson.
Chelsea star Cuadrado might have doubled Colombia’s lead on 43 minutes but wastefully shot wide after being teed up by Teo Gutierrez’s deft backheel.
Brazil might have grabbed a barely deserved equaliser just before half-time though when Dani Alves skipped clear down the right and curled a cross into Neymar whose diving header was saved by David Ospina.
Neymar was booked for handling the rebound from Ospina’s save.
Brazil went for broke in the second half, bringing on Liverpool attacking midfielder Philippe Coutinho for Fred, and immediately looked more threatening as a result.
But they squandered a golden chance to equalise on 58 minutes when Bundesliga-based striker Roberto Firmino missed an open goal.
The ball ended up with Firmino after Ospina made a hash of a clearance. But with an open goal begging, Firmino — reportedly a summer transfer target for Liverpool — blazed over the bar.