The 2014 FIFA World Cup wasn’t supposed to end this way for Neymar.
Neymar, Brazil’s superstar forward, suffered a broken bone in his back during his team’s 2-1 victory over Colombia in a World Cup quarterfinal. The injury will rule him out of the rest of the World Cup, according to Brazil’s team doctor.
“Unfortunately, he’s not going to be able to play,” Rodrigo Lasmar told Brazil’s SportTV. “He is very, very sad.
“It’s not serious in the sense that it doesn’t need surgery, but he’ll need to immobilize it to recover.”
Brazil’s football confederation later released a statement which confirmed that Neymar would play no further part in the tournament.
“Neymar is out of the World Cup,” the CBF said, according to Sky Sports. “The player suffered a fracture of the third vertebra and will not be able to recover in time to compete in the remaining two games of the World Cup – the recovery time predicted by the Brazilian team’s medical department is four weeks.”
In the 88th minute, Juan Zuniga kneed Neymar in the back, sending the 22-year-old to the ground. Medical staff stretchered Neymar off the field and carried him directly down the tunnel. Neymar was then taken to a hospital in Fortaleza, Brazil, for tests.
The referee declined to punish Zuniga for the challenge. After the game, the Colombia fullback defended his action.
“I never meant to hurt a player,” Zuniga said, according to the BBC. “It was a normal move.
“I was playing for the shirt from my country, not with the intent to injure. I was just defending my shirt.”
Neymar, his Brazil teammates and the nation itself now will pay the heaviest toll for the bittersweet quarterfinal victory.
Brazil plays Germany in a 2014 World Cup semifinal on Tuesday. The World Cup final takes place on July 13.
Brazil faces the prospect of trying to win the 2014 World Cup on home soil without Neymar, who has scored four goals and assisted one in five games. The goal-scoring burden now falls on Hulk and Fred, who have scored one goal in 736 minutes (combined) at the 2014 World Cup.
Brazil head coach Luis Felipe Scolari could elevate Jo, Willian or Bernard from a reserve role to place in the starting 11.
Since making his professional debut in 2009, Neymar largely has lived up to his billing as Brazil’s next great superstar. In 2011, Neymar was anointed as the one who would fire Brazil to World Cup glory this summer. Neymar has ably shouldered those expectations since then, scoring 35 goals in 52 games for the national team.
Throughout the 2014 World Cup, Neymar has looked like he might fulfill that great promise. Neymar’s 2014 World Cup comes to a tragic end, and his teammates have set out to win it for him.
Barring a miraculous recovery (or discovery of a grand ruse), Neymar will be robbed of the chance to experience what was supposed to be the defining moment in his career. Neymar can lead Brazil to titles in future World Cups but he’ll never do it in front of his countrymen at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro. That is the great shame in all this.