World Cup 2014: Juan Zuniga apologises for Neymar injury

Juan Zuniga has apologised to Neymar after the Brazil striker was ruled out of the World Cup following the Colombia defender's challenge.

Neymar, 22, broke a vertebra in his spine during his side's 2-1 quarter-final victory over Colombia on Friday.

Zuniga insists he did not mean to hurt Neymar in the incident, which Fifa's disciplinary committee is studying.

I don't think it was normal football play. I do believe it was aggressive.

Former Brazil forward Ronaldo

"I deeply regret the sad injury that Neymar suffered during the match between Brazil and Colombia," he said.

"Although I feel that these situations are a normal part of the game, there was no intent to injure, malice nor negligence on my part.

"I want to reach out to Neymar, who I admire, respect and consider one of the best players in the world.

"I hope you recover quickly and return to the game soon, so we can all support a sport full of the virtues and qualities that I've tried to follow in my 12 years as a professional player."

Neymar was replaced in the 88th minute of Friday's game in Fortaleza after Zuniga challenged him for a header, with referee Carlos Velasco Carballo taking no action.

And Brazil legend Ronaldo says Zuniga intended to hurt Neymar.

"We could see on TV there was intention by the Colombia player to actually cause some harm," said Ronaldo.

Zuniga tackles Neymar

Neymar was challenged by Napoli defender Juan Zuniga late in the game

"I didn't like that very high knee so that leads me to believe it was a foul with intention to actually cause harm.

"I thought it was a highly violent and unlawful move by the Colombia player. We are fearful and sad for the loss of our player."

Ronaldo, a World Cup winner in 1994 and 2002 who retired in 2011, was speaking at Fifa's daily news conference.

The 37-year-old, who is on the organising committee of Brazil 2014, added: "I don't think it was normal football play. I do believe it was aggressive.

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

Analysis

"Brazil will be without their two most important players - leading scorer Neymar and captain Thiago Silva - against Germany.

"Neymar is a huge loss but it opens up a chance for someone else and I would expect Chelsea forward Willian to get his opportunity now."

Barcelona forward Neymar scored four goals in his five World Cup appearances for Brazil, who face Germany in Tuesday's semi-final.

Brazil president Dilma Rousseff has written to the home nation's squad expressing his sadness at Neymar's injury.

She said: "Once again, you have shown talent, determination, fighting spirit and the ability to rise above challenges, which will help make up for the major loss caused by the injury of our dear Neymar.

"All of Brazil already feels victorious, both because we are hosting the Cup of Cups and because we have the most beautiful, unwavering team of all."

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