Neymar flashes the victory sign after being airlifted from the training camp in Teresopolis
Brasilia: Neymar was left with no feeling in his legs after sustaining the back injury which ended his World Cup tournament and sent Brazil into three days of unofficial mourning.
Luiz Felipe Scolari, the Brazil coach, likened the loss of the striker to a “catastrophe” on Sunday and revealed there were initial fears that far more damage than a fracture to his vertebrae had been inflicted on Neymar.
Scolari relayed a conversation between Neymar and teammate Marcelo after the 22-year-old crumpled in a heap following the knee in the back from Colombia’s Juan Zuniga during the World Cup quarter final on Friday.
“Marcelo ran up to Neymar and asked him how he was feeling and he told him: ‘I can’t feel my legs.’ Marcelo called on the team doctor but doctors are not allowed on the pitch. There was a lot of confusion. That image of Neymar being stretchered off towards the helicopter was a real shock, it was tough hearing his cries.”
Speaking further, Scolari said: “The loss is equivalent to a catastrophe. Neymar is our reference, he was one of our references because he is a player that would make the difference in any team. We have lost the one player we did not want to lose, and it’s for the semi-final and final.
“He will be with us if he can, on the bench or in the stands. We have already asked him to do this. It all will depend on how he is in the upcoming days. If he can do it, I am certain that he will.”
The feeling did eventually return to Neymar’s legs but the fracture to the third vertebra was confirmed with Jose Luiz Runco, the team doctor, emotionally revealing how he broke the news that the player’s involvement in the tournament was over.
“I didn’t even give the kid the chance to ask me,” Runco said. “I broke the news and it was hard to see him crying profusely when told he was out of the competition. He only calmed down when I reasoned with him that as a 22-year-old footballer, his professional life still has a lot to offer. He will be out for 40-45 days. Then he will be able to pass, to run. He does not have any neurological injury that would compromise his life as an athlete or a human being.”
Nevertheless, Neymar will have to wear a special protective belt and will be on painkillers for some time as he recovers. His club, Barcelona, are expected to fly out their doctor Daniel Medina to assess the injury.
It is hoped that Neymar will still be able to travel to Belo Horizonte to attend the semi-final which would provide a lift for Brazil and add to what will be an intense atmosphere inside the stadium.
The Brazilian Football Confederation has appealed against the yellow card received by Thiago Silva — his second of the World Cup — which rules him out of the semi-final with a one-match suspension.
Silva was cautioned for blocking Colombian goalkeeper David Ospina’s kick and Fifa confirmed that its disciplinary committee would be “analysing materials” submitted by Brazil.
Fifa does have the right to cancel a yellow card but, given that only red cards are usually rescinded, it would be a hugely controversial move should football’s world governing body relent. It would leave Fifa exposed to further accusations of favouring the hosts.
In Silva’s expected absence the likelihood is that Scolari will turn to Dante, over Henrique, not least because the central defender plays in Germany for Bayern Munich and will therefore face opponents with whom he is familiar.