Football

Neymarred

Crocked and teary, Brazilian star now wants Argentina and Lionel Messi to win the World Cup

Neymar broke down in tears this morning (Singapore time), as he relived the challenge which broke a vertebra in his back, and left him fearing he would be paralysed.

He was ruled out of the World Cup after a rugged challenge by Colombia defender Juan Camilo Zuniga in the quarter-final, which caused the fracture.

The footballer wiped away tears as he described his fears immediately after the knee in the back, that he would be paralysed.

He said at a press conference this morning: "I was blessed in that situation because it wasn't more serious. Two more centimetres up and, well, I could be in a wheelchair. So it was really difficult.

"It happened at such an important point in my career."

"It was something I could not accept. That challenge and what happened was unacceptable," he added.

"I would not say there was malice because I can't speak for him, but everyone who understands football knows that challenge was not normal.

"When you want to foul someone to stop a game, or stop a counter-attack, you kick their ankles, you push, you pull, but the way the ball was falling, it wasn't a normal game situation.

"Many of you say I am a diver, and I don't care that you say that. I can defend myself when I can see what's going on around me.

"But I can't defend myself from what comes (at me) from behind. What defends me in that situation are the rules; I couldn't defend myself from that (tackle) and I was injured."

Fifa subsequently decided not to take action against Zuniga, while Neymar has been ruled out of football for several weeks.

Brazil collapsed to a 7-1 defeat by Germany without Neymar and suspended captain Thiago Silva in the semi-final on Wednesday morning.

Neymar said Zuniga called him the next day to apologise, but he stopped short of forgiving his opponent.

"I don't hate him, I don't hold a grudge," he said.

"But I don't feel anything."

With Brazil's dream of winning a sixth World Cup dashed by their 7-1 hammering by Germany, Neymar said he wants Barcelona teammate Lionel Messi to beat the Germans in the final.

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"Messi's history in the sport is so important; he has won a lot of trophies, and I will be cheering for him.

"He is a friend, he is my teammate and I wish him luck."

Brazil will take on Holland in the third-place playoff on Sunday morning (Singapore time).

Even a victory will be scant consolation for the hosts, after they were humiliated by Germany in the last four.

Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari and his staff are widely expected to step aside after the tournament, whether they beat the Dutch or not.

Scolari, who labelled the semi-final disaster the worst day of his life, said: "We have a deal... until the game on Saturday and after that, probably, we will have a conversation to sort some things out.

"I will continue with my life, the players will also continue to be winners and we must continue.

"History will have to record that Brazil, for the first time since 2002, reached the semi-finals."

- Wire Services.


I was blessed in that situation because it wasn’t more serious. Two more centimetres up and, well, I could be in a wheelchair. So it was difficult. It happened at such an important point in my career.

— Brazil star Neymar, on Colombia’s Juan Camilo Zuniga’s challenge which ended his World Cup

World Cup