Brazil’s top scorer Neymar will miss the remainder of soccer’s World Cup after fracturing a bone in his back in the tournament host’s 2-1 quarterfinal victory over Colombia.
Neymar, who had four goals in the tournament, was in tears as he was carried off the field on a stretcher in the closing stages of the game in Fortaleza late yesterday.
The 22-year-old was examined by doctors at the stadium before undergoing tests in a private clinic. The examination revealed he had suffered a fracture in his third vertebrae, according to team doctor Rodrigo Lasmar.
“He is out of the World Cup,” Lasmar told reporters after the match, where goals from captain Thiago Silva and defensive partner David Luiz set up a semifinal with Germany on July 8.
The loss of Neymar is likely to hurt Brazil’s chances of winning sport’s most-watched competition on home soil. Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari described the Barcelona forward as his team’s most-potent attacking threat before the tournament. With his goals and a crucial goal in a penalty shootout victory over Chile in the first knockout game on June 28, Neymar lived up to his star billing.
Neymar was fouled by Juan Zuniga, who jumped and put his knee in the forward’s lower back as they challenged for a ball.
Zuniga denied he’d tried to hurt Neymar, saying he was only “defending my shirt.”
“I’m very sorry,” he said. “It wasn’t intentional.”
Thiago Silva defended Zuniga, describing the foul as “careless” but without maliciousness.
Neymar’s teammates were saddened by his loss, with striker Fred unable to contain his tears as he talked to the press after the match.
“We need to have the maturity to overcome such a blow,” said Luiz. “We know how he’s prepared and dreamed to shine with a title. We need to talk, go support him and get this title.”
Brazilians across the country expressed concern after news on Neymar’s injury began to filter through.
“I’m very worried, there isn’t another player with same characteristics,” said Marcela Oliveira, a teacher, who was watching the game at Rio de Janeiro’s Bar Lagoa. “I fear for his health.”
The loss of Neymar means other players on the squad will have to do more, said Pedro Duarte, an academic.
“Now is time for the other players to take responsibility for the team now we’ve lost Neymar’s sparkle,” he said.