Ecstasy and agony: Brazil through to semis but Neymar ruled out for rest of World Cup
Published 05/07/2014 | 01:08
Neymar's World Cup is over after he sustained a fractured vertebra in his lower back towards the end of Brazil's quarter-final victory against Colombia.
The hosts and tournament favourites set up a semi-final clash with Germany by disposing of los Cafeteros in an enthralling battle at the Estadio Castelao.
Thiago Silva bundled home early on before David Luiz struck a superb 35-yard free-kick, putting the Selecao out of sight despite James Rodriguez's penalty leading to a nervy final 10 minutes.
However, the joy of that 2-1 win was tinged with concern over the fitness of star man Neymar, who left the field on a stretcher in the closing stages.
The 22-year-old was in tears after taking a knee to the back from Juan Zuniga, with Brazil doctor Rodrigo Lasmar confirming he has sustained a fractured vertebra that will end his World Cup.
"It's not serious in the sense that it doesn't need surgery, but he'll need to immobilise it to recover," Lasmar said. "Unfortunately, he's not going to be able to play."
Lasmar expects the recovery time to be at least a few weeks, ruling Neymar out of Tuesday's semi-final against Germany and the final, should Brazil get there, on July 13.
The forward was seen leaving the Estadio Castelao on a drip and, after initial analysis at the stadium, was taken to a local clinic.
Neymar was crying in pain and his absence will be a huge blow to Brazil, who will also be missing captain Silva for their semi-final with Germany through suspension.
Selecao coach Luiz Felipe Scolari was angered by Silva's booking as well as by what he saw as referee Carlos Velasco Carballo's lack of protection for Neymar.
"Not even a yellow card, nothing,'' he said of Zuniga's challenge. "For Thiago, who was running in front of the goalkeeper, he gets a yellow card, so we can't understand some things.
"But everyone knows Neymar was going to be hunted. For three matches that has been happening and we have been saying that, but no-one thinks that is the case.
"People think Germany, these or the others, only they are hunted but not Neymar.''
Scolari spoke to the media before the severity of Neymar's injury became clear and was asked whether he thought Neymar would miss the final should they navigate their way through the semi-finals.
"I think for the match against Germany, it will be very difficult for Neymar to play based on my conversation with the doctor,'' the Brazil coach said.
"We're not very hopeful with this and if the injury is slightly more difficult, I don't know.
"I don't think it is very likely that Neymar can do it, but he is young, he has got a lot of energy, he takes care of himself, he does everything that has to be done to recover, so I don't know. Let's see."
Unfortunately for the hosts, Neymar's injury means it is impossible - much to the disappointment of team-mate Oscar.
"We'll miss him," the Chelsea midfielder said. "Whoever comes in in his place has to play as part of the team and beat Germany.
"The best thing we do is play as a team and I just hope that whoever comes in plays well."
Neymar's injury will no doubt see focus fall upon the perpetrator but Colombia full-back Zuniga had denied any malicious intent.
"It was a normal move," he said. "I never meant to hurt a player.
"I was on the field, playing for the shirt from my country, not with the intent to injure. I was just defending my shirt."