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SBD Global/July 7, 2014/World Cup

Brazil Reacts With Anguish To News Neymar's Back Injury Will Keep Him Off The Pitch

Brazil "awoke from a night celebrating their side's progress" to the World Cup semifinals to the "bitter" realization that they will be "without their best player Neymar for the rest of the tournament," according to John Drayton of the London DAILY MAIL. He has "been ruled out for at least four weeks with a broken vertebrae following a tackle from Juan Camilo Zuniga." Brazilian sports paper Lance! featured the headline "Play for him" in an "attempt to encourage Brazil's players that they can still realise the dream of winning the World Cup in their home country without a player that has largely carried them thus far." Sao Paulo's Folha said, "Brazil reach the semi-final, but Neymar is out of the Cup." It offers a "bleak reminder to the country." Folha's Juca Kfouri, though, "stayed positive." He wrote, "It was Brazil's best performance of the World Cup...and things could get even better, even without Neymar, who will be missed, really missed. But Neymar is only one player, and he isn't Messi, much less Pelé. And without Pelé, we won the World Cup in 1962" (DAILY MAIL, 7/5). The London GUARDIAN reported newspapers in Brazil and Colombia were "united in condemnation for Spanish referee Carlos Velasco Carballo." Image's of Brazil's "stricken star filled almost every front page in the host nation." Correio Braziliense's headline read, "The pain that stopped our joy. Clattered by the knee of the Colombian right-back Juan Zúñiga, the best Brazilian attacker is out of the World Cup. A wave of sadness has invaded the country." Kfouri wrote, "Now the Germans are not only favourites, they are a sure thing." Rio newspaper Extra's headline read, "Cowardice deprives the World Cup of Neymar." Colombian regional newspaper Diario del Magdalena had "perhaps the hardest-hitting front page however." Its headline read, "'Arbitro Español: hijo de la gran puta madre que te parió' (Spanish referee, son of a massive whore, the mother who bore you)." Another Colombian newspaper, Q’hubo, led its front page "with the single word: 'Injusticia!'" (GUARDIAN, 7/5). REUTERS' Boadle & Benson reported "the papers published blow-by-blow diagrams of the play" in which Neymar was injured. A "large crowd of fans wearing Brazil shirts gathered outside the hotel in Fortaleza where Neymar was taken after the match." As he was being "taken in on a stretcher, they chanted: 'Força Neymar,' or, 'Be strong Neymar.'" Social media was "flooded with messages about the incident," with many Brazilians calling on FIFA to "punish Zuñiga in the same way Uruguay striker Luis Suarez was penalized for biting an Italian player." One columnist "went so far as to describe the challenge as a 'savage attack'" (REUTERS, 7/4).

FULL RECOVERY EXPECTED: In N.Y., John Lyons reported Neymar "received a measure of good news:" he is expected to "recover fully by simply resting his back." But that is "small consolation for a country still convulsing with dismay and anger." Brazil team doctor Jose Luiz Runco said, "He can walk. There's no neurological damage. There is nothing that will cause problems for him in the future as a player or as a human being." Neymar left the team training facility in a helicopter on Saturday to "begin his recovery at home on the Brazilian coast near São Paulo." He appeared "shaken but upbeat in a short video statement released Saturday" by Brazil's football federation. He said in the video, "My dream was to play in a World Cup final, that's not going to happen now. This Cup isn't over. I will do what I can so that Brazil is victorious in the final" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 7/5).

POLITICAL IMPLICATIONS POSSIBLE: In London, Joe Leahy wrote Neymar "fractured more than the third vertebrae" in his lower back. He "shook the hopes of a nation of winning the World Cup." The tackle will "also help determine the national mood ahead of crucial presidential elections in October." President Dilma Rousseff has "so far been bolstered by a smooth World Cup and may have been hoping for a further boost from a victory by the national side in the tournament." But optimism that the team "was improving after a scratchy start will be dashed by the loss of Neymar, which comes as captain Thiago Silva will also be suspended from the semi-final against Germany on Tuesday." More than any other player, Neymar has "become the propaganda tool for advertisers fighting the battle for consumers in this year's tournament." His face is "on every television screen and billboard, advertising everything from Nike to Santander bank and Lupo underwear." Still, the loss of Neymar "may have come too late to damage Ms Rousseff’s chances in the national election, say analysts" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 7/6).

RONALDO SPEAKS OUT: In London, Gordon Tynan reported two-time Brazilian World Cup champion Ronaldo "branded the tackle" as "evil" and "violent" while another former World Cup winner, "ex-Italy defender Fabio Cannavaro, said it was made 'with intention to cause harm.'" He added that Zuniga "must be punished when FIFA review the incident." FIFA has "already confirmed" that it will "look into the incident." Ronaldo "was scathing about the tackle." He said, "It was a very violent, unlawful tackle. We have to demand sanctions be given to violent players" (INDEPENDENT, 7/5).

ZUNIGA APOLOGIZES: The BBC reported Zuniga has apologized to Neymar. He said that he "did not mean to hurt Neymar." Zuniga: "I deeply regret the sad injury that Neymar suffered during the match between Brazil and Colombia. Although I feel that these situations are a normal part of the game, there was no intent to injure, malice nor negligence on my part" (BBC, 7/5).
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