RIO DE JANEIRO — Word began slowly moving down Copacabana beach Friday night, followed shortly by expressions of shock: Brazil might have won the game, but the host nation lost its biggest star. Neymar’s World Cup is done.
Brazil has been swallowed in green and yellow, the national colors, the past few weeks, and No. 10 jerseys have connected fans here from the Amazon to Brazil’s sparkling coast. Their World Cup hopes had been largely tied to Neymar, the 22-year old wunderkind whose face has graced magazine covers and whose celebrity has transcended sport in this soccer-mad country.
Neymar went down with an injury in the 88th minute of Brazil’s 2-1 quarterfinal win over Colombia on Friday in Fortaleza. He winced and cried out in pain. Neymar was eventually taken off the field on a stretcher and later was transported to an area hospital. Just a couple of hours after the game, the team doctor broke the news to the nation: “Unfortunately, he’s not going to be able to play,” Rodrigo Lasmar told Brazil’s SportTV.
Lasmar said Neymar suffered a fractured vertebra and would be out for four to six weeks.
Speaking to reporters earlier in the evening, Brazil Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari was not optimistic that he’d have his star player back in time for the team’s semifinal match Tuesday against Germany. “Let’s hope everything goes okay,” he said.
With only a few minutes remaining in the match, Neymar fell hard to the field after a challenge by Colombia’s Juan Zuniga. Following the game, Zuniga told reporters he was simply “defending my shirt.”
“It was a normal move” he said. “I never meant to hurt a player.”
Neymar was later transferred to a private clinic, which was quickly surrounded by concerned fans who gathered in support of their fallen hero.
Neymar had already accounted for four goals in the tournament. He was replaced by defender Henrique for the last few minutes of Friday’s game.
More on the World Cup: