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‘Neymar hunted out’

Neymar is about to be airlifted in a helicopter from Brazil's training camp in Teresopolis, on Saturday. (Reuters)

Fortaleza: Luiz Felipe Scolari Friday night angrily claimed that Neymar had been “hunted” out of the World Cup after it was confirmed that Brazil’s star player has suffered a fractured vertebra and will miss the rest of the competition.

A knee in the back by Colombia’s Juan Zuniga ended Neymar’s match in the 88th minute and, following checks at a local hospital in Fortaleza, the prognosis was bleak.

“Neymar has a broken vertebra — he’s expected to be out for four to six weeks,” Brazil team doctor Rodrigo Lasmar told SportTV.

“He will not be in condition to play, he will need a few weeks to be fit again. He is very, very sad.”

Brazil’s players were quick to come to the support of their colleague but were describing the challenge by Zuniga as careless rather than malicious.

“It’s a big loss for us,” midfielder Fernandinho said.

“We need to find a way to stay together and become stronger after losing our greatest player. We will try to win this World Cup and for sure we will dedicate it to Neymar.”

Full-back Maicon said: “We must give Neymar all our support but it is complicated now, at this stage of a World Cup.”

Thiago Silva paid tribute to his teammate. “They take your dream of playing the World Cup semi-final and final. I love you my brother Neymar. We’ll fight for you.”

Zuniga did not receive even a caution for the high challenge on Neymar, while Brazil captain Thiago Silva is now also suspended for the Germany match after a soft booking for impeding Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina.

“Not even a yellow card, nothing,” said Brazil manager Scolari. “Then Silva gets a yellow card for walking past the goalkeeper. It’s hard to understand.

“Everyone knows Neymar would be hunted. Three matches that has been happening but no one thinks that’s the case, they only think Germany is hunted, not Neymar. But he has been hunted out.

“We are in a slightly difficult position for the match against Germany but we have great players. If anything has to change we will do that and I think we will still have a great game.”

Striker Hulk added: “Every time is like this. Players always come after Neymar. The referees need to do more to keep this from happening.”

Neymar was visibly crying out in pain as he left the pitch and was immediately assessed by the Brazilian team doctor before being taken for further examination at a local hospital.

“He’s at a clinic, undergoing tests,” said Scolari. “He has already been sent to a private clinic. He was kneed on his lower back, he was crying out in pain. ”

There were a total of 54 fouls in Saturday night’s match — the most at this World Cup — and Scolari admitted that his players were not totally innocent.

Fernandinho delivered some especially heavy tackles on Colombia playmaker James Rodríguez. “There were also moments when our players were tougher than they should be, we know that,” said Scolari. “We could have stopped ours and their violent game.”

A sombre mood spread over Brazil as the reality dawned on the World Cup host nation that injured striker Neymar wouldn't play again at the tournament. Newspapers on Saturday fronted photos of Neymar crying in pain, reaching for his injured back, upon which rested Brazil's hopes for a sixth World Cup title. Yet slivers of optimism remain.

Sports commentator Juca Kfouri wrote in a Sao Paulo-based daily that Brazil face an immense challenge against Germany. With Neymar out and captain Silva suspended, he wrote “the Germans are not only the favourites — they’re a sure thing. And therein lies the danger — for them.”

Kfouri says the pressure is now off Brazil - and they may play in the underdogs role.

Meanwhile, when asked about his wonder goal David Luiz gestured with his hands out diagonally in different directions and joked that it represented how his feet were when he was little.

“I think it’s genetic. I was born with legs like that,” Luiz said, spreading his hands apart like two feet sticking out toward opposite sides. “In Brazil, they call it '10-to-two'. Today it was great because I hit the ball at the exact point,” he said.

“You can try to hit it like that and it'll take you all day. I am so happy because I can help my team with this.”

Scolari said Luiz had been studying free-kick videos leading up to Friday's match, concentrating on the technique used by a now-retired specialist at Brazilian club.

TEAMS

Brazil: Julio Cesar; Maicon, Thiago Silva, David Luiz, Marcelo; Fernandinho, Paulinho (Hernanes, 86th), Oscar; Hulk (Ramires, 83rd), Neymar (Henrique, 88th), Fred.

Colombia: David Ospina; Juan Zuniga, Cristian Zapata, Mario Yepes, Pablo Armero; Juan Cuadrado (Juan Quintero, 80th), Fredy Guarin, Carlos Sanchez, James Rodriguez; Victor Ibarbo (Adrian Ramos, 46th), Teofilo Gutierrez (Carlos Bacca, 70th).

Man of the Match: David Luiz

Referee: Carlos Velasco Carballo (Spain)