Brazilian soccer legend Ronaldo took exception with the hit that resulted in a fractured vertebra for Neymar, knocking Brazil’s young star out of the World Cup, calling it “highly violent.”
“There was an intention by the Colombia player to actually cause some harm,” said Ronaldo, speaking at a news conference Saturday morning in Rio de Janeiro.
The entire host nation woke up Saturday still trying to process the whirlwind of emotions from the previous evening. Brazil topped Colombia in a quarterfinal match-up, but lost its top player in the 88th minute when he took a knee to the back from Colombia’s Juan Camilo Zuniga. Neymar crumbled to the field, before officials carried him off on a stretcher. The team doctor said he could need four to six weeks to recover and would not be available for the rest of the tournament.
Ronaldo stopped short of saying that FIFA should take a closer look at the play and consider meting out punishment.
“Whatever was done has already been done,” he said.
Brazil must face Germany in a semifinal on Tuesday. It will also be without captain Thiago Silva, who scored Brazil’s first goal Friday but then picked up a costly yellow card that will force him to sit out the next match.
Even without two important players, Ronaldo said the Brazilian team should still be considered the tournament’s front-runner.
“I think Brazil is still a favorite at all times and against any national team in the world,” he said. “I believe in the Brazilian national team.”
Ronaldo defended his point by turning to the history books. In 1962, Pele injured his leg in the second match of the World Cup and never returned. Brazil still managed to win the tournament without its top player.
“I think that if the German team believes they’re going to come against a weak, discouraged team because they lost Neymar, I think the Germans will be making an enormous mistake, underestimating the quality of the Brazilian team,” Ronaldo said. “The Brazilian team was never made up and will never be made up of one single player.”
Ronaldo said he sent Neymar a message late Friday night, “conveying all my support and solidarity. …Such a young player with so many dreams, and one of his dreams was quite certainly to be able to play the World Cup in his own country with his people. …The whole country is proud of him and the support will be that the World Cup [trophy] will remain in Brazil and we’ll dedicate it to him.”