Neymar was allegedly one-inch away from being permanently paralyzed after he was kneed in the back during Brazil’s 2-1 World Cup quarter-final victory over Colombia on Friday.
The 22-year-old’s participation at the soccer behemoth was ended when he was on the receiving end of Juan Zuniga’s knee in the 88th minute of their tightly contested affair. Zuniga didn’t even get booked for the attempted tackle, which resulted in Neymar being stretchered off the pitch in the 88th minute in tears.
Brazil’s team doctor, Rodrigo Lasmar, confirmed after the match that Neymar’s injury means that the Barcelona player will now be out of contention for between four and six weeks.
However, Louis Felipe Scolari has since added that the situation appeared to be much graver immediately after the contest. “He said: ‘I can’t feel my legs,'” the Brazilian manager explained to Marca as he recalled the details of Neymar’s conversation with Brazil left-back Marcelo on the pitch.
“Marcelo was scared,” he continued, “and called the doctor on but the doctor couldn’t get on in the confusion. It was a big shock, the image of Neymar being stretchered off to the helicopter, in difficulty, crying.”
Scolari also conceded that Neymar is Brazil’s most integral player, and that the hosts will struggle without him, and will have to play in a different style to accommodate his absence.
“Neymar was our benchmark, one of our references because he is a player who makes a difference in any team,” he explained. “We’re in a situation where we’ve lost something we don’t want to miss, especially for the semi-final and final.”
Neymar has so far scored four goals during the tournament, each of which have helped Brazil to the semi-final where they will play Germany on Tuesday. If they beat their European opponents then they will have reached their first World Cup final in 12 years.
Despite the gravity of the situation for Neymar, Scolari and every Brazilian in the world who has been transfixed by the tournament so far, there’s a chance that Neymar’s iconic status will, bizarrely, be increased by his omission.
If Brazil do go on to actually lift the trophy then he will forever be associated with their triumph, because not only did he help them reach the pinnacle of soccer, but they had to overcome their final opponents without him. Meanwhile, if they are eliminated by Germany or get beaten in the final, then fans will always wonder how much of an impact Neymar would have made if he had been present.
Either way, in both incidences Neymar will always be mentioned when the tournament is discussed in the future, and the defining image of the 2014 tournament is always likely to be Neymar’s tears as he was carried out of the stadium.
The fact that he is still so young means that he has at least two or three more World Cups to add to his already impressive legacy though.
[Image via Bing.com]