Zuniga offers support to Neymar

The Bolton News: Neymar, front, suffered a fractured vertebra in this challenge from Juan Zuniga, ending his World Cup Neymar, front, suffered a fractured vertebra in this challenge from Juan Zuniga, ending his World Cup

Colombia defender Juan Zuniga has sent a message of support to Neymar amid criticism of the challenge which has ruled the Brazil talisman out of the rest of the World Cup.

Neymar suffered a fractured vertebra in a strong challenge from Zuniga near the end of Friday night's quarter-final clash in Fortaleza.

The Colombia defender caught Neymar with a knee in his back that went unpunished during Brazil's 2-1 win and the Brazilian left the pitch on a stretcher and in tears.

FIFA's disciplinary committee is studying the challenge to decide on action against Zuniga, while Ronaldo, Brazil's former World Cup-winning striker, believes the Colombian intended to hurt Neymar.

Zuniga defended his challenge immediately after the match and on Saturday emphasised he had meant Neymar no harm.

"I feel burdened by this situation," Zuniga said in an Instagram message. "It resulted from a normal play and there was no bad intention, evil or recklessness from my part.

"I want to send a special salute to Neymar.

"I admire you, I respect you and I consider you one of the best players in the world.

"I hope you recover soon in order to continue to show us that in football there is a sport full of virtue and qualities, which I have put into practice since I was 12 years old and as a professional player."

Zuniga also expressed gratitude to the Brazilian fans.

He said: "To the Brazilian fans that have lost one of their players in the World Cup, I thank them for all the support they have given our national team in every game we have played here."

The Colombia could yet find himself in hot water with FIFA, though.

FIFA head of media Delia Fischer said: "The disciplinary committee is analysing the matter. The spirit of fair play is very important and we want to avoid difficult things on the field of play."

And Ronaldo branded the challenge "aggressive" and "violent".

He told a news conference in Rio de Janeiro: "The challenge was a very violent one - I believe there was an intention by the Colombian player to cause some harm

"I don't think it was normal football play, I don't know whether he had planned this beforehand but I do believe it was very aggressive, very violent."

Neymar was airlifted from Brazil's training camp in Teresopolis on Saturday in a medical helicopter in order to start his recovery in his home city of Guaruja.

Brazil take on Germany in the semi-finals.

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