Emotional Neymar cries as he recalls Zuniga challenge

Thu Jul 10, 2014 6:30pm EDT
 
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By Pedro Fonseca

TERESOPOLIS Brazil (Reuters) - An emotional Neymar cried as he recalled the challenge that ended his World Cup on Thursday and said he felt blessed not to have ended up in a wheelchair.

Colombia defender Juan Zuniga kneed the Brazil forward in the back in the closing stages of the hosts' 2-1 quarter-final victory, ruling him out of the tournament before the team's traumatic 7-1 semi-final defeat by Germany.

"I won't say he came to injure me, I don't what was going on in his head but everyone who understands football can see that it wasn't a normal challenge," Neymar told reporters at Brazil’s base camp just outside Rio de Janeiro.

"When you want to foul someone to stop a game or stop a counter-attack, you kick their ankles, you push, you pull, but the way the ball was falling, it wasn't a normal game situation.

"Many of you say I am a diver and I don't care that you say that. I can defend myself when I can see what's going on around me," he added

"But I can't defend myself from what comes from behind. What defends me in that situation is the rules and I couldn't defend myself from that and I was injured.

"God blessed me," Neymar said, breaking down in tears. "If it had been another two centimeters I could be in a wheelchair today."

Neymar said Zuniga called him the next day to apologize but he stopped short of forgiving his rival for the challenge.   Continued...

 
Injured Brazilian national soccer team player Neymar cries during a news conference in Teresopolis, near Rio de Janeiro, July 10, 2014.  REUTERS/Marcelo Regua