FIFA disciplinary committee reviewing Juan Camilo Zuñiga’s foul on Neymar

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Carlos Velasco Carballo may not have seen anything egregious about Juan Camilo Zuñiga’s foul on Neymar, but FIFA’s not so sure. After Brazil’s star player was left with a broken vertebra as a result of the Colombian defender’s challenge, the lead referee during yesterday’s World Cup quarterfinal whistled for a foul yet declined to produce a card. Roughly one hour later, Neymar’s tournament was over, with the injury inflicted by Zuniga ruling the Barcelona star out for his country’s final two matches.

Today, FIFA announced that the governing body’s disciplinary committee will investigate the foul, though with Colombia eliminated after yesterday’s 2-1 loss in Fortaleza, Brazil, it’s unclear justice could be brought through a retroactive punishment, though given how much attention’s been paid to the foul, even a symbolic ruling may help.

Here’s a FIFA spokesperson, from reporting by England’s Press Association (published in The Observer/The Guardian):

Fifa’s head of media, Delia Fischer, said: “The disciplinary committee is analysing the matter. The spirit of fair play is very important and we want to avoid difficult things on the field of play.”

In case you missed the incident, it occurred as Neymar settled under a ball coming out of Brazil’s end in the 87th minute. Zuñiga, going in to challenge, jumped through Neymar, lifting his right knee into the base of the Brazilian’s back.

Neymar was eventually taken off the field on a stretcher and to a local hospital where he was diagnosed with be broken third vertebra. The injury will not require surgery, but the recuperation time means the 22-year-old will miss the semifinal and either Brazil’s third place game or the tournament’s final.

In GIF form:

So what can the disciplinary committee do? According to section 77 of FIFA’s Disciplinary Code:

The Disciplinary Committee is responsible for:

a) sanctioning serious infringements which have escaped the match officials’ attention;
b) rectifying obvious errors in the referee’s disciplinary decisions;
c) extending the duration of a match suspension incurred automatically by an expulsion (cf. art 18, par. 4);
d) pronouncing additional sanctions, such as a fine.

There is room for more than a fine, however. Section 78:

78 Jurisdiction of the chairman ruling alone

1. The chairman of the Disciplinary Committee may take the following decisions alone:
a) suspend a person for up to three matches or for up to two months;
b) pronounce a fine of up to CHF 50,000;
c) rule on extending a sanction (art. 136);
d) settle disputes arising from objections to members of the Disciplinary Committee;
e) pronounce, alter and annul provisional measures (cf. art. 129).

So there is a mechanism to punch Zuñiga. Whether he should be punished, we can pick up in another post.

Regardless, according to the organization, FIFA will bring its disciplinary committee into play. Zuñiga’s foul may yet earn more than a mere whistle.