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Brazil's forward Neymar reacts after his team lost the Qatar 2022 World Cup quarter-final match against Croatia on penalties at Education City Stadium in Al-Rayyan, west of Doha. Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: Saving your best penalty taker for the fifth kick may sound like good judgement. There is a lot of pressure at that moment and you need your top players for those important situations. But saving the best until last only works if you know what last is.

And on a crushing night at the Education City Stadium, devastated Brazil only found that out when it was too late as Croatia advanced to the semi-finals after winning the shootout 4-2.

Coach Tite says he was saving Neymar, who had scored a superb goal in extra time only for Bruno Petkovic equalising with four minutes left, for the fifth penalty. But this was a daft move – he ought to have been the first player to put the ball down.

Big moments

Big players need to step up in big moments. But he did not. Instead, I believe he wanted to be the last penalty taker so that he would have had the chance to be the star of the show. Again. Neymar proved he is not a team player. It was a selfish act which backfired spectacularly. Over the last years, you always see the best penalty taker take the first one and set the tone.

Brazil should have seen this coming because Croatia’s nerveless set of stars had won their last four penalty shootouts at the World Cup. Tite should have given the responsibly to Neymar in taking the first penalty. Instead, it fell to substitute Rodrygo who had hardly had a touch of the ball since he had come on in extra time. And unsurprisingly, he saw his tame effort easily saved.

Neymar has taken 88 penalties in his career, scoring 73 at an 82.5 per cent conversion rate. He is Brazil’s primary penalty taker - scoring from the spot against South Korea in the last 16. Sure, there was no guarantee he would score against Croatia but the fact he didn’t even get the chance to fluff his lines will hurt Brazil, the World Cup favourites, more.

Game on the line

It isn’t the first time the 31-year-old Paris Saint-Germain star has waited to take a penalty. In 2014 Brazil’s World Cup tie against Chile was also decided by a shootout, with Neymar taking the fifth and final spot kick. And in the 2016 Olympics final he took the last penalty in the win against Germany.

Neymar is their talisman. He is the one of the biggest stars in football right now and I think in such a big occasion with a semi-final berth at stake he should have stepped up and been counted with the game on the line when his country needed him most.

Instead he was to take the final spot-kick that never was.