Brazil star Neymar said his World Cup may be over because of a fractured vertebra but his World Cup dream of celebrating the title with his teammates at the Maracana Stadium next Sunday is still alive.
In a video released by the Brazilian football confederation on Saturday, Neymar thanked fans and everyone else for the support in this “very difficult moment.”
“I don’t have words to describe what has been going through my head and my heart,” said Neymar, trying to stay upbeat but still sporting a subdued look on his face. “I just want to say that I will be back as soon as possible. When you least expect I’ll be back.”
Brazil topped Colombia in a quarterfinal matchup Friday but lost its top player in the 88th minute when he took a knee to the back from Colombia’s Juan Zuniga. Neymar crumpled to the field.
Wearing a black T-shirt and a black hat turned backward, Neymar spoke in a low tone of voice, his eyes still heavy.
“My dream is not over yet,” he said. “It was interrupted by one move, but it will continue and I’m certain that my teammates will do whatever possible so I can fulfill my dream of being a champion. I won’t be able to fulfill the dream of playing in a World Cup final, but I’m sure they will win this one, they will become champions, and I will be there with them, and all of Brazil will be celebrating together.”
The video was made just before the striker was airlifted from Brazil’s training camp in a medical helicopter to be treated at home.
Brazil doctor Jose Luiz Runco guaranteed the injury will not have long-term effects on Neymar’s career and said the player could even travel to Belo Horizonte to watch the semifinal against Germany on Tuesday if he is not feeling a lot of pain.
Runco said he believes Neymar can return to action in about 45 days, and that Barcelona doctors were informed of the player’s conditions from the beginning.
“He was extremely moved when I gave him the news that he was out of the World Cup,” Runco said. “He cried a lot, which was a natural reaction at that moment. But I told him that although his dream was being cut short, he was still a 22-year-old with a lot in front of him.”
Neymar had been one of the standout players of the World Cup, scoring four goals in the team’s first three games.
Fans attending both of Saturday’s quarterfinals chanted his name several times.
Zuniga sent a letter of apology to Neymar, saying he was “deeply sorry and sad” for causing the injury.
“Although I feel the situation was normal in a game, there was no bad intention, malice or negligence on my part,” Zuniga said in a statement.
“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.”
Brazil great Ronaldo told a news conference Saturday that he thought “the injury was a very violent one,” and added: “We could see on television there was an intention by the Colombia player to actually cause some harm.”