Brazil forward Neymar has been ruled out of the remainder of the World Cup after suffering a broken vertebra in his side’s win over Colombia.
Team doctor Rodrigo Lasmar confirmed the news to Brazilian TV after the Barcelona star underwent further tests in a Fortaleza hospital.
Lasmar said: “It’s not easy news to give but the truth is he won’t be available for the rest of the World Cup.
“The tests showed a fracture near the third vertebra. It won’t need surgery but he needs to be immobilised to control the pain. He cannot play, a week will not be enough.
“He needs cautious treatment, with a belt around his back so he’ll feel more comfortable. It is also required for him to heal the fracture.”
The news realises the worst fears of coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, who will be without both his star attacker and best defender against Germany in the semi-finals on Tuesday with captain Thiago Silva suspended.
Neymar was caught from behind by a reckless Juan Zuniga challenge and had to be carried off on a stretcher towards the end of the Selecao’s 2-1 victory.
Scolari was pessimistic after the match. He said: “Neymar went to the clinic here in the stadium. He was kneed on his lower back and he was crying out in pain and I can guarantee that it won’t be easy for him to recover, based on what the doctor told us and the pain he’s in. And as it’s lower back, I don’t know.”
Scolari bore no grudges against Zuniga and insisted Brazil would move forward with confidence even without their talisman.
He added: “Everyone knows that Neymar was going to be hunted. We knew this was the case.
“I don’t think the foul was on purpose, I think he came in to stop the ball. There’s no point in thinking about it, the game is over.
“If anything has to change, we’ll do that and we’ll play a great game.”
Zuniga insisted there was no malice in the challenge. He said: “I never meant to hurt the player, I was just defending the shirt.”
Neymar is the darling of the Selecao fans who must now be wondering where the goals are going to come from as the tournament enters its business end.
The former Santos star has scored four goals in five games at this World Cup and has carried the hopes of a nation on his young shoulders.