Brazil shocked as Neymar ruled out of World Cup
Brazil’s joy in reaching the World Cup has been overshadowed by the news that their talisman Neymar will play no further part in the tournament after fracturing a vertebra in his spine.
The hosts and tournament favourites set up a semi-final clash with Germany by disposing of Colombia in Fortaleza, Thiago Silva bundling home early on before David Luiz's 35-yard free-kick meant James Rodriguez's penalty was mere consolation.
However, the joy of that 2-1 win was quickly cut short by the injury to Barcelona forward Neymar, who left the field on a stretcher in the closing stages.
The 22-year-old, who is joint second top scorer in the tournament with four goals, was in tears after taking a knee to the back from Juan Zuniga, with Brazil doctor Rodrigo Lasmar confirming he had sustained a fractured vertebra that will end his World Cup.
"It's not serious in the sense that it doesn't need surgery, but he'll need to immobilise it to recover," Lasmar said. "Unfortunately, he's not going to be able to play."
Neymar's injury will no doubt see focus fall upon the perpetrator but Colombia full-back Zuniga had denied any malicious intent.
"It was a normal move," he said. "I never meant to hurt a player.
"I was on the field, playing for the shirt from my country, not with the intent to injure. I was just defending my shirt."
The Brazil football confederation (CBF) confirmed in a statement that Neymar is likely to be absent for around a month, ruling the striker out of Tuesday's semi-final against Germany and the final, should Brazil get there, on 13 July.
"Neymar is out of the World Cup,” the statement read. “The player suffered a fracture of the third vertebra and will not be able to recover in time to compete in the remaining two games of the World Cup - the recovery time predicted by the Brazilian team's medical department is four weeks."
Zuniga insisted he was "playing for the shirt from my country, not with the intent to injure", but Neymar was crying in pain as he left the stadium.
His absence will be a huge blow to Brazil, who will also be missing suspended captain Silva for their semi-final with Germany.
As the news of Neymar's injury rippled around the world, fellow players and public figures were quick to show their support.
"Neymar, I hope you recover very soon friend!" - Neymar's Barcelona team-mate and Argentina superstar Lionel Messi wrote on his Facebook page.
"All our support to @neymarjr! #ForcaNeymar" tweeted Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff.
"We have one more reason to play with heart in this cup. Neymar, rest assured that our group loves you and give life to win this title for you. You were and continue to be the ace and the soul of our team. The whole of Brazil is praying for you!" said Brazil team-mate Fred, whose Facebook post included a drawing of Neymar being surrounded by fans.