By CAITLIN MURRAY
Neymar won’t need surgery, but it’s of little consolation as he should certainly miss the rest of the World Cup.
The star striker was reportedly airlifted Saturday out of Brazil’s training camp near Rio de Janeiro via helicopter and transported to his home city in Sao Paulo, where he will continue treatment for a fractured vertebra.
Even without surgery, Neymar will be out for least four weeks, ensuring his World Cup is over. The 22-year-old reportedly has been wearing a brace to keep his back immobilized.
After Brazil’s 2-1 win over Colombia, where Neymar took Camilo Zuñiga’s knee to the back in a reckless challenge, Neymar had flown back to Rio de Janeiro with his teammates and then took an ambulance to their training camp an hour outside the city. Neymar reportedly waited in a wheelchair for the ambulance to arrive.
Zuñiga’s from-behind challenge in the 86th minute of Friday’s quarterfinal left Neymar clutching his back and screaming in pain. He had to be stretchered off the field into the locker room.
Zuñiga, 28, apologized Saturday to Neymar in a Spanish-language message posted on Instagram, but continued to defend what happened as a normal tackle without malicious intent.
“I deeply lament the sad injury suffered by Neymar in the match between Brazil and Colombia,” the message read. “I feel bad about this situation, which came about from a normal action which had no bad intention, no nastiness or imprudence on my part.”
The statement continued: “I want to send you a special greeting, Neymar. I consider you one of the best players in the world. I hope you recover quickly and that you’re back soon to excite us with your football.”