On Friday, Neymar’s World Cup came to a sickening end. An 88th minute challenge from Colombia’s Juan Camilo Zúñiga left the Brazilian stretched flat on the pitch, unable to move. The stretcher came and Neymar was carried away, leaving Brazil to ultimately secure their 2-1 victory.
Later that night came the news: Brazil might be headed for the semi-final, but Neymar wouldn’t be with them. The foul had fractured one of his vertebrae, ruling him out for four to six weeks.
But initially, Neymar and his teammates feared it to be much, much worse.
Luiz Felipe Scolari explained to Spanish newspaper Marca that Neymar initially feared he was paralyzed. “I can’t feel my legs”, the forward told teammate Marcelo, according to Scolari.
The coach continued, “Marcelo was scared 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.”
Brazil – the players, the coaching staff, the vast majority of the population – have been devestated by Neymar’s injury. Scolari added: “Neymar was our benchmark, one of our references because he is a player who makes a difference in any team. We’re in a situation where we’ve lost something we don’t want to miss, especially for the semi-final and final.”
It may be little consolation right now, but at least Brazil have not permanently lost Neymar. The possibility that the 22-year-old, who is so able to dazzle crowds with his impressive feats, might have been paralyzed…well, it doesn’t bear thinking about.