Reports from Brazil suggest that their talismanic striker Neymar has been ruled out of the World Cup with fractured third vertebrae.
He was stretchered off in the dying minutes of Brazil’s 2-1 victory over Colombia in obvious pain after sustaining a back injury inflicted by Juan Zuniga and was taken straight to hospital for several tests.
Zuniga, who has become an instant villain in the eyes of Brazilians, defended his actions by insisting:
“I never meant to hurt a player. I was just defending my shirt.”
Brazil manager Luiz Felipe Scolari had said after the match:
“We knew Neymar would be hunted, so we are in a difficult position.”
He added: “He was crying in pain. I don’t think he will be able to play in the next match.”
It was only later that the full extent of the injury became known.
Brazil’s SportTV channel was subsequently told by team doctor Rodrigo Lasmar the bad news:
“He will not be available at this World Cup. It’s a benign fracture – he will need physiotherapy and comfort to ease the pain.”
The Brazil v Colombia game had been run by an overly lenient referee, Spain’s Carlos Velasco Carballo, who had either missed a lot of fouls or let them slide. The game had finished with 54 fouls, a record so far in this World Cup tournament. 31 of them had been committed by Brazil in their most aggressive performance in a World Cup since records began in 1966.
James Rodriguez was targeted by the Brazilians, with Fernandinho responsible for a significant portion of the total fouls, six of them on Rodriguez, and escaped a booking.
The sight of David Luiz celebrating his wonder strike will now be tempered by the sad confirmation that Brazil’s best player as well as their captain Thiago Silva (who is suspended) will be missing when they face Germany on Tuesday in Belo Horizonte.
This Brazil side may be far from the free flowing side that dazzled earlier World Cups but they know how to win. It remains to be seen if they can manage without two of their best players against a Germany side who can look after themselves though.