FIFA to probe Neymar tackle

2014-07-05 18:25
Neymar (AFP)

Rio de Janeiro - Brazil grappled with the injury blow which ruled Neymar out of the Soccer World Cup on Saturday as FIFA said it was investigating the tackle which saw the star striker stretchered out of the tournament.

Neymar's tournament-ending injury cast a pall over Brazil's 2-1 quarter-final win over Colombia on Friday, prompting anguish and anger amongst his compatriots.

FIFA said it is studying footage of the aerial challenge from Colombian defender Juan Zuniga which left Neymar with a fractured vertebrae.

"The FIFA Disciplinary Committee is analysing all the elements provided, the videos and the match reports, and will decide whether or not to take action," FIFA spokesperson Delia Fischer said.

Zuniga was rapidly being cast as Brazil's public enemy number one on Saturday but insists he had not sought to hurt Neymar in the tackle.

"When I'm on the field I always do what I have to, to defend my country and the shirt I wear, but always without intent to injure anybody," Zuniga said.

But Zuniga's protests failed to impress Brazilian legend Ronaldo, who accused the Colombian of a "violent attack."

"I believe there was an intention to hurt by the player. I believe it was very aggressive and very violent," he said.

Italy's 2006 World Cup-winning captain Fabio Cannavaro agreed, saying Zuniga had intentionally struck Neymar with his knee.

"I didn't like that very high knee. That leads me to believe it was a foul with a prior intention to cause harm," he said.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff reflected the sense of national anguish, writing a personal message to Neymar.

"Your painful expression yesterday on the pitch ... wounded my heart, along with that of all Brazilians," Rousseff wrote.

Several Brazilian newspapers vented fury at Zuniga, with O Dia denouncing the "criminal knee" while a columnist in O Estado de Sao Paulo accused him of "a crime of national lese-majeste."

The fallout over the affair deflected attention from Saturday's quarter-finals, where Lionel Messi's Argentina will aim to overcome Belgium in Brasilia while in Salvador the Netherlands face Costa Rica.

Messi is aiming to lead Argentina into the semi-finals after losing in the last eight in 2010 and 2006.

Argentina have failed to reproduce their best form during four matches of the World Cup so far, leading some to accuse them of an over-dependence on Messi.

But Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella insists that a lot of good work is going unnnoticed.

"Any team that has a player like Messi will greatly depend on him," said Sabella.

"But I believe that what he's doing is the work of the entire team. He's the best player in the world, but he's part of a team."

The Dutch meanwhile will be favourites to progress against minnows Costa Rica, with in-form attackers Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie spearheading the challenge.

Costa Rica coach Jorge Luis Pinto stoked controversy ahead of the match by stating he was "really worried about Robben diving."

He urged Uzbek referee Ravshan Irmatov not to be afraid to hand out yellow cards if necessary.

"Maybe he would have to leave the field because he gets two yellow cards for diving. That could happen," said Pinto.

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