Qatar December 3, 2022: The players were looking at one another in shock, the first Brazil side to lose to African opponents, as the man so desperately missed got out of his seat, walked across the touchline and then skipped into a gentle jog.
Prior to that shock winner for Cameroon, Neymar Jr had been doing keepy-uppies on the sidelines and even managed a smile whenever his face beamed up on the big screen. Twice he did the rocker-style hand gesture to earn the biggest roar of the night from a largely Brazilian crowd.
This night belonged to Cameroon, Vincent Aboubakar's 92nd minute header securing their biggest group stage scalp since Argentina in 1990. But in a hugely frustrating night for Brazil, deservedly punished for their wastefulness, an upbeat-looking Neymar was just the slither of optimism needed.
The body language had been a hint from their star playmaker, confirmed by the team's doctor later, that his the ankle sprain is inching slowly back to health.
There is still no categorical answer on whether Neymar can inject his much-needed brand of mojo back in time for their last-16 match against South Korea.
But Dr Rodrigo Lasmar did his best to sound an optimistic note: "We still have 72 hours before the next game, we will count on the time in our favor, we still have the chance, and we will wait to understand how this transition will happen." Neymar and Alex Sandro will be welcomed back at training on Saturday to "practise with the ball," he added. Brazil just about remain favourites for a sixth title, but they are limping rather than swaggering, with several key injury doubts.
Alex Telles and Gabriel Jesus also picked up knocks, which may go some way to explaining particularly poor performances from the pair.
"We feel the loss and we must feel the loss when we lose but because we won the first two games we have a second chance... but we have to feel it," said Brazil's ever philosophical manager, Tite.
This was not like watching Brazil, as Cameroon ended a nine-match run without a victory at the World Cup against the most daunting opponent imaginable. Aboubakar, who had come off the bench to secure a point against Serbia with a glorious lob, deserved all the plaudits for helping this side relive some of their Nineties glory days.
His thumping header at the death from a Ngom Mbekeli cross was seen by only a couple of thousand of Cameroon fans, and Aboubakar was sent off for his wild celebration afterwards, ripping off his top to earn a second yellow. But he will not care a jot, and neither did his dreadlocked manager Rigobert Song, the former West Ham and Liverpool player.
"The lion spirit needs to be the key to Cameroon teams," he said afterwards. "We have a young team but we have shown we can be a very good team."
Unfortunately Cameroon’s miracle workers were not able to influence results elsewhere as Switzerland edged their way ahead against Serbia.
Brazil had never looked likely to surrender Group G top spot. No team at this tournament has won their opening three matches now. But unlike other teams, Tite’s players have repeatedly counted down the number of games to the final during press conferences. No cockiness now. In fact an entire nation waits with bated breath.
Of the general injury situation, Lasmar added: “Danilo has been evolving positively – he did intense work with the ball and has adapted functionally positively and he should be able to train normally with the players. We have high expectations he’s available."
Of Neymar and Alex Sandro, he added: "They haven't started the ball training yet, that will be done from tomorrow and it is important to know how the players will respond to this new stimulus. Depending on that, they may or may not be able to do it, depending on these two days.”
This was due to be largely a night off for the Brazilians against a Cameroon first team who made a grand total of 11 bursts into the opposition’s area. But the Africans defended for their lives against a Brazilian side, and fly home with some glory to savour. Cameroon are going home, but they are also back on the radar of international football.