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Jul 10, 2014

Neymar: Destiny was taken from me

Brazilian forward Neymar broke into tears as he recounted the moment his World Cup ended against Colombia, admitting that he could have been left paralysed by Juan Camilo Zuniga's challenge.

Neymar struggled to hold back tears while speaking about his back injury at a news conference on Thursday, saying his "destiny" to win the World Cup at home was taken from him.

The undisputed star of the Brazilian national team was carried off the field on a stretcher with a fractured vertebra in the quarterfinals against Colombia, and the Selecao failed to cope without him, losing 7-1 to Germany in the semifinals.

"My destiny in this World Cup was taken away from me," Neymar said on Thursday. "The tackle was bad and if it had hit me a couple of inches to the right, I could have been in a wheelchair."

Neymar called Brazil's 7-1 defeat to Germany in the semifinal 'inexplicable.'

The 22-year-old Neymar was carrying the nation's hopes for a title at home until he took a knee in the back from Colombia's Juan Camilo Zuniga, but the Barcelona man said there is no personal animosity against the man who injured him.

"I don't feel hatred for Zuniga," Neymar said. "He called me to apologise and say he didn't want to hurt me. I bear no grudge and wish him success in his career."

Neymar had no explanation for what happened against Germany, saying "it was horrible to watch it on TV." Brazil's lopsided defeat will linger, but Neymar said it need not be seen as a national tragedy.

"Brazil will always be Brazil, despite what happened," he said. "We will remain being and admirable country and we the players will do everything for that. A day before the Germany game people were still touting us for the title, we deserve to be respected."

The loss in the semifinals failed to exorcise the ghosts of 1950, when they lost in the final during the only other World Cup in which they served as hosts. Many players from the 1950 squad struggled to find acceptance after their defeat, and Neymar cautioned the country against treating the 2014 squad the same way.

"We cannot do [to] my teammates and I what we did to the 1950 team," the 22-year-old said. "The drubbing hurts and everybody here feels humiliated, but we can learn with this to reap benefits in the future.

"We were a failure in this World Cup but the team behaved like men and run till the end. Football is like this. A historic defeat cannot bow our heads forever."

Neymar, who said he will be rooting for Barcelona teammate Lionel Messi in the final, also declined to answer whether he thought Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari should stay or go, saying only, "When we lose we don't have to change everything but correct things by working hard."

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