Brazilian superstar Neymar said he wants teammate Lionel Messi to lead Argentina to victory in the World Cup final against Germany.
At an emotional press conference, Neymar broke down in tears as he relived the challenge which broke a vertebrae in his back and left him fearing he would be paralysed.
With Brazil’s dream of winning a sixth World Cup decimated by their 7-1 hammering by Germany, Neymar said he wants Barcelona teammate Messi to claim the trophy on Sunday against the Germans.
“Messi’s history in the sport is so important, he has won a lot of trophies and I will be cheering for him,” said Neymar.
“He is a friend, he is my teammate and I wish him luck.” Neymar was ruled out of the World Cup in a rugged challenge by Colombia defender Juan Camilo Zuniga in Brazil’s 2-1 quarterfinal win.
The 22-year-old wiped away tears as he described his fears immediately after the knee in the back that he would be paralysed.
“I was blessed in that situation because it wasn’t more serious. Two more centimetres up and, well, I could be in a wheelchair. So it is really difficult. It happened at such an important point in my career,” he said.
“It was something I cannot accept. That challenge and what happened was unacceptable,” he added.
“I would not say there was malice because I can’t speak for him, but everyone who understands football knows that challenge was not normal.
“When someone comes from behind I can’t do anything about it. I did not have any control and I ended up being hurt.”
Fifa decided not to take action against Zuniga for the challenge that will keep Neymar out of action for up to six weeks.
Neymar, though, insisted he held no bad feelings towards Zuniga after the Napoli defender called to apologise to him.
“Of course I would forgive him. I do not feel any anger, he even called me the next day to apologise. He said he didn’t mean to hurt me and apologise.”
Neymar returned to Brazil’s training camp in Teresopolis for the first time since the incident on Thursday in a bid to lift his teammates’ spirits after their humiliation at the hands of Germany.
“It is not a pleasant situation, but it is good just to be back here so I can see my friends and I told them we stared together so we should finish this together regardless of the result.”
And, despite not being able to take part himself, he urged the rest of the Brazil squad to at least salvage some pride against the Netherlands in their third-place playoff on Saturday.
“What matters is that we are united and we are going to finish this with honour on Saturday,” he said.
“We had the chance to be champion in our country and we failed. We didn’t get it right, we fell short. We know we had a good campaign, but we did not play our best.
“We did not show how good Brazilian football is, its superiority and charm, but we have to look at this last match as if it were the final.
“Victory won’t assimilate all the pain we feel today, but it is important.”