Juan Camilo Zuniga ended Neymar Jr’s World Cup with a back breaking foul.
In the 88th minute of the match between Brazil and Colombia, Zuniga leaped to challenge an aerial ball with Neymar.
The Colombian defender ended up putting a right knee into Neymar’s lower back, and also pushed the Brazilian striker’s in the back of his head.
Neymar was seen clutching his back after the challenge, and was stretchered off the pitch sobbing into his hands.
The Brazilian star was sent to either a private clinic or Sao Paolo Hospital.
Brazil team doctor Rodrigo Lasmar assessed Neymar, and reported that the striker had fractured a vertebrae, which means that Neymar will miss the rest of the World Cup.
Zuniga has since apologized to Neymar, writing that he is “deeply sorry and sad” for injuring the Brazilian.
“Although I feel the situation was normal in a game, there was no bad intention, malice or negligence on my part,” Zuniga said on Saturday in a statement released by the Colombian team.
“I admire you, respect you and consider you one of the best players in the world,” Zuniga wrote.
“I hope you recover and return quickly.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
See an AP story below.
Brazil Wins, But May Have Lost Neymar for Semis
FORTALEZA, Brazil (AP) — With or without Neymar on the field, Brazil will play Germany for a spot in the World Cup final.
The host nation advanced to the semifinals for the first time in 12 years on Friday, beating Colombia 2-1 with the goals coming from defenders Thiago Silva and David Luiz.
But the celebration was quickly tempered when Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said Neymar, the poster boy of this year’s World Cup, could miss the semifinals because of injury.
“We don’t know the exact extent of the injury yet, but I can guarantee that it won’t be easy for him to recover,” Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said. “I think that for the match against Germany it will be very difficult for Neymar to play, based on what I talked about with the doctor.
“We’re not very hopeful.”
Neymar has been the focal point of both the Brazilian team and the entire World Cup, and he lived up to expectations with four goals in the first three matches.
But he took a knee to the back late in the match against Colombia at the Arena Castelao in a collision with Juan Camilo Zuniga. The Brazilian star was crying in pain as he was carried off the field, and was taken to a private clinic.
“Along with the rest of Brazil I’m hoping for the recovery of our greatest player,” Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff wrote on Twitter.
Brazil will definitely be without Silva for Tuesday’s match against Germany in Belo Horizonte. The captain must sit out after getting his second yellow card of the tournament for impeding Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina.
Brazil, which is trying to become the first host to win the World Cup since France in 1998, had been eliminated in the quarterfinals at the last two World Cups. The “Selecao” lost to the Netherlands in the quarterfinals in 2010 and to France in 2006 after winning its fifth title in 2002.
Silva gave Brazil the lead in the seventh minute, scoring with his left knee after a corner from Neymar passed through the Colombian defense. He celebrated the goal by pointing to the emblem on his jersey and shouting, “This is Brazil, this is Brazil.”
Luiz added the second from a free kick in the 69th, sending a swerving long-range shot off the inside of his foot and into the top of the net.
Colombia got one back in the 80th. James Rodriguez scored his tournament-leading sixth goal from the penalty spot after Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar brought down substitute Carlos Bacca inside the area.
Rodriguez tried to control the pace of the match, but it was Brazil that created most of the scoring chances as Ospina had to make a series of saves in the first half alone.
The Colombians tried to pressure after Rodriguez’s late penalty, but Brazil held on with solid defending.
“This is a very tough moment for us,” Colombia coach Jose Pekerman said. “We always had the dream of winning this match even though we knew Brazil would be a very tough opponent. We knew how decisive this was, and that any mistake would cost us.”
Colombia was coming off four straight wins, playing some of the most impressive football of the tournament. And the Colombians, playing in the quarterfinals for the first time, had entered the match after scoring 11 goals, second only to the Netherlands.
“After not playing in the World Cup for so long, we were able to show the value of the Colombian football and the talent of some of our players,” said Pekerman, an Argentine. “They showed great spirit and presence of mind. They came to play a great World Cup, not just to participate.”
There was a lot of talk about Rodriguez and Neymar before the match, but the 22-year-old forwards didn’t really deliver. Rodriguez scored the late penalty but was otherwise mostly ineffective, as was Neymar before he left on a stretcher.