Brazilâ€™s bid to win a sixth World Cup has suffered a devastating blow after Neymar was ruled out of the rest of the tournament after fracturing a bone in his back during the quarter-final victory against Colombia.
The Barcelona striker was taken off the pitch on a stretcher after taking a knee to the back from the Colombia defender Juan Zuniga late in the game.
He was taken to a private clinic in Fortaleza â€“ â€œcrying out in painâ€, according to the Brazil manager, Luiz Felipe Scolari, â€“ where an X-ray revealed he had fractured one of his vertebrae.
Rodrigo Lasmar, the Brazil team doctor, said: â€œThis news is not easy but he will not be available for the rest of the World Cup. Neymar has a broken vertebra. He will be out for four to six weeks.â€
Zuniga defended the challenge, claiming he did not deliberately try to hurt Brazilâ€™s talisman.
â€œIt was a normal moveâ€ he said. â€œI never meant to hurt a player. I was on the field, playing for the shirt from my country, not without the intent to injure. I was just defending my shirt.â€
Thiago Silva and David Luiz had scored the goals to set up a semi-final against Germany in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday, but Neymarâ€™s injury represents a grievous setback given his importance to the team and the absence of a ready-made replacement. He has been one of the stars of the tournament and a player the Brazil public regard as their best hope of victory.
Brazil will also have to do without Thiago Silva against Germany, ruled out after his second yellow card of the tournament, but it is the news about Neymar that will raise the most doubts about whether Scolariâ€™s team have enough quality to go all the way.
Scolari had earlier held a press conference in which he ruled Neymar out of the Germany game but acknowledged that the news might be even worse.
â€œI donâ€™t know,â€ he said to the question of how he could replace Neymar. â€œIâ€™m going to have to study this. It depends how people recover. Neymar has gone to a clinic.
â€œHe was crying out in pain and I can guarantee itâ€™s going to be hard for him, from what the doctors are telling me, and from what I was seeing, with the pain he was in. Heâ€™s young, he has a lot of energy and he takes cares of himself. So letâ€™s see. Letâ€™s just hope itâ€™s not a serious problem.â€
Unfortunately for Brazil, the scan revealed the injury was worse than Brazilâ€™s medical staff had initially feared. â€œHeâ€™s out of the competition,â€ David Luiz said. â€œHeâ€™s a great guy and now heâ€™s out. Everyone feels sad.â€
Maicon added: â€œWe must give Neymar all our support. It is complicated now [for the team], at this stage of a World Cup.â€
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