RIO DE JANEIRO, July 5- Brazil grappled with the injury blow which ruled Neymar out of the 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 spokeswoman 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.”