Gary Neville’s famous description of David Luiz being so poor that it was as if the Brazilian was being controlled by a 10-year old playing PlayStation came to roost Tuesday night in Belo Horizonte.
Luiz pointed to the sky after the game in full prayer, looking for any direction from God in how to handle what was to come for him afterwards.
Luiz exhibited once more throughout the tournament that he carries his faith everywhere he goes, especially on the field. Win or lose, it’s the main thing that gives him the guidance required for how he deals with the world. But for two hours on Tuesday, with wearing the captain’s armband for his nation, we saw the world’s most expensive defender regress to the risky, calamitous player we know him as. Maybe Jose Mourinho was wise in selling him to Paris Saint-Germain for £50million.
It was a World Cup where it appeared that Luiz was ready to be a world-class centerback. A defender that could lead his team with pure emotion, great intensity, and the tactical awareness to make timely interventions and have shrewd positioning sense. Combine that with his great midfield offensive abilities, his opening header vs Chile and his amazing free kick goal from distance against Colombia, and it seemed like he may have been on the verge of becoming the behemoth in the position that many thought he could be.
Those key characteristics were in play for David Luiz in the first five games of Brazil’s quest for a sixth World Cup, one on home soil.
But what was also beside Luiz that allowed those invaluable traits to appear for him was one man: Thiago Silva, the actual team captain.
Silva was the lug-nuts to Luiz’s wheel, and the legs to Luiz’s table. And on Tuesday afternoon in Belo Horizonte, four days after Silva’s ridiculous second yellow card against Colombia ruled him out for the semifinals, his partner in defense and crucial support that Luiz needed wasn’t there.
Luiz, along with Julio Cesar, held up Neymar’s jersey during the national anthem but he might as well have been better off holding Silva’s as well. Gone was the reliable force of the first five games and in came the center back who both Rafa Benitez and Jose Mourinho concluded wasn’t a centerback. In came the center back who likely made Mourinho laugh somewhere in private a few times as PSG thought that Luiz was a $75 million enforcer at the heart of the back line. Lord knows how much Fabio Cannavaro would be worth nowadays.