|Neymar breaks down during a news conference, in Teresopolis, on Thursday. (Getty Images)
Teresopolis: Injured Brazil striker Neymar wants his Argentine Barcelona teammates to win the World Cup but his support was not welcomed by rival midfielder Maxi Rodriguez.
“I always said that I wanted Argentina to get to the final because Brazil would be there but it never worked out like that,” Neymar told reporters on Thursday.
“Now that they are in the final, I want them to win because my two Barcelona teammates, Messi and Mascherano, are there.”
Rodriguez, however, railed at Neymar’s support.
“I’m indifferent to Neymar saying that Argentina or Germany should be champions,” Rodriguez said. “What bothers me is what they say there (in Argentina), I don’t care what outsiders say.”
The Brazil versus Argentina rivalry is one of the hottest in football and is particularly tense this week as Argentina are within sight of winning their third World Cup at Rio de Janeiro’s famous Maracana stadium.
Rodriguez, who is expected to play at least some part in the final against Germany, made his less than magnanimous comments just hours after Neymar spoke.
Argentina will play Germany, who handed Brazil their heaviest ever World Cup defeat in Tuesday’s 7-1 semi-final thrashing, at the Maracana on Sunday.
Brazil take on the Netherlands in the third-place playoff on Saturday but Neymar will miss the game, as he did the semi-final, because of a back injury.
Neymar singled out Messi for special praise and said the World Cup trophy would be a fitting addition to his bulging trophy cabinet.
“I want to see Messi lift the Cup on Sunday. He’s won almost everything and I think he deserves to be champion.
“I am cheering for him to be champion and I will be rooting for him,” Neymar said, jokingly adding that he was supporting his friends rather than Brazil’s biggest rivals. “He is my teammate and my friend.”
Neymar also distanced himself from his agent Wagner Ribeiro, who launched a bizarre outburst at Scolari. Ribeiro produced a sarcastic list of “six requirements to be Brazilian coach” including “going to Chelsea and being sacked the following day” and “being an old jerk, arrogant, repulsive, conceited and ridiculous”. Neymar said: “I don’t agree with that.”
At an emotional press conference, Neymar broke down in tears as he relived the challenge by Colombia defender Juan Camilo Zuniga in the quarter final, which left him with a fractured vertebra.
Neymar said he feared that he would be paralysed. “I am blessed that the injury wasn’t more serious. Two more centimetres up and, well, I could have been on a wheelchair.
“I feared that I would be paralysed. So it is really difficult. It happened at such an important point in my career,” he said.
“It was something I cannot accept. That challenge and what happened was unacceptable,” he added.
“I would not say there was malice because I can’t speak for him, but everyone who understands football knows that challenge was not normal.
“When you want to foul someone to stop a game or stop a counter-attack, you kick their ankles, you push, you pull, but the way the ball was falling, it wasn’t a normal game situation.
“Many of you say I am a diver and I don’t care that you say that. I can defend myself when I can see what’s going on around me.
“But I can’t defend myself from what comes from behind.
“When someone comes from behind I can’t do anything about it. I did not have any control and I ended up being hurt. What defends me in that situation is the rules and I couldn’t defend myself from that and I was injured.”
Fifa decided not to take action against Zuniga but Neymar was ruled out of football for several weeks.
Neymar said Zuniga called him the next day to apologise but he stopped short of forgiving his rival for the challenge.
“I don’t hate him, I don’t hold a grudge,” Neymar said. “But I don’t feel anything.”