Brazil striker Neymar said Thursday he was nearly paralyzed by the hit from Colombia defender Juan Camilo Zuniga that ended his World Cup during the teams' quarterfinal match, according to the Associated Press.
The 22-year-old ended up with a fractured vertebra because of Zuniga's challenge from behind and is expected to make a full recovery. But Neymar, who cried while speaking because he said the injury was still difficult to talk about, said he "could be in a wheelchair" if Zuniga struck him just two centimeters closer to the center of his back.
The 22-year-old striker complained about Zuniga's challenge, although he said the Colombian called to apologize.
"I don't know if he was trying to hurt me, but if you understand football you know that it was not a normal challenge," Neymar said. "I can't protect myself when I'm not facing the play. The only thing that can protect me from someone coming from behind are the rules."
Zuniga did not receive a card for the hit and FIFA earlier this week elected not to punish the Colombian further. Neymar said he isn't holding a grudge against Zuniga despite the hit.
With Neymar out, Brazil fell, 7-1, to Germany in its World Cup semifinal Tuesday.
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- Ben Estes