World Cup: Neymar’s absence ‘equivalent to catastrophe’, maintains Scolari

Brazil's Neymar sustains his back injury during the quarter-final against Colombia.
Brazil's Neymar sustains his back injury during the quarter-final against Colombia.
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Brazil talisman Neymar feared he was paralysed shortly after suffering the knee in the back that ended his World Cup.

Neymar was ruled out of the tournament at the weekend after he was hit in the lower back during an aerial challenge with Colombia defender Juan Zuniga.

Scans revealed Neymar had fractured a vertebra following the collision, but the player initially believed the injury was much more serious when he lay prostrate on the pitch, according to Brazil’s coach Luiz Felipe Scolari.

“Marcelo ran up to Neymar (directly after the challenge) and asked him how he was feeling and he told him, ‘I can’t feel my legs.,” Scolari said.

Fortunately for Neymar, he will not suffer any such long-term effects.

“He does not have any neurological injury that would compromise his life as an athlete or a human being,” Brazil’s team doctor Jose Luiz Runco said.

“He will be out for 40-45 days. Then he will be able to pass, to run.”

Neymar thanked his team-mates for their support in an emotional video recorded at the team’s training ground in Teresopolis on Saturday.

He was then flown to his home city of Guaruja, where he began his rehabilitation.

Scolari has asked the 22-year-old to make the short flight to Belo Horizonte to cheer Brazil on during tomorrow’s semi-final against Germany though.

“He will be with us if he can, on the bench or in the stands,” the former Chelsea manager said.

“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 Brazil squad will fly to Belo Horizonte today for the final stage of their semi-final preparation.

Scolari will have to find a replacement for captain Thiago Silva, who is unlikely to win an appeal against his second booking of the tournament against Colombia.

But the biggest task on his hands is filling the gap left by Neymar, who was Brazil’s top scorer at the World Cup with four goals.

“It’s equivalent to a catastrophe,” the Brazil coach said of losing his star man.

“Neymar is out reference. 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.”

The Brazilian federation (CBF) confirmed yesterday that team psychologist Regina Brandao would visit the training ground in Teresopolis.

Scolari found the ordeal of seeing his best player injured hard to take.

“It was a big shock,” he said. “The image of Neymar being carried off a stretcher towards the plane, the difficulties, the tears...”

Scolari has several options to replace Neymar.

Paulinho or Fernandinho could be asked to play a more advanced role now that regular midfielder Luis Gustavo is back from suspension.

But the two biggest contenders to fill Neymar’s position are Chelsea forward Willian and Shakhtar Donetsk’s Bernard.

Neither player has started a match for Brazil during the World Cup, but Willian has come off the bench in all but one of the team’s matches.

Bernard, a tricky, diminutive 21-year-old, has made two substitute appearances during the tournament.

FIFA confirmed Brazil have lodged an appeal against captain Thiago Silva’s yellow card that has him banned for the semi-final against Germany.

Thiago picked up the caution against Colombia, imposed after he blocked goalkeeper David Ospina taking a kick, and as it was his second of the tournament he was automatically suspended.

The Brazilian federation’s chances of success appear limited – appeals against yellow cards are not usually permitted, only red cards.

Real Madrid appealed against midfielder Xabi Alonso being suspended for the Champions League final after he picked up a third booking in the semi-final, but UEFA ruled that appeal was inadmissible.

Should FIFA overturn the yellow card it would be hugely controversial and would allow other teams to claim that the governing body are favouring the hosts.

All existing yellow cards are now wiped from the slate for the players from this stage of the tournament, however, meaning anyone who is booked in a semi-final will not risk suspension for the final unless they are sent off.

Brazil’s communications director Rodrigo Paiva has been banned for the rest of the World Cup for punching Chile’s Mauricio Pinilla.

Paiva had been given an initial one-game ban after being shown a red card by the referee after the half-time scuffle nine days ago.

FIFA’s disciplinary committee have now extended that by a further three games and fined him 10,000 Swiss francs (£6,600).