Neymar's back injury leaves nation shocked and angered as Fifa consider action
Loss of star player from remainder of soccer's showpiece darkens the mood of host country
Neymar's exit from the World Cup due to a back injury left Brazilians shocked and angered, darkening the mood after the hosts' 2-1 win over Colombia in the quarter-finals had sparked nationwide celebrations.
The loss of their star player has dented Brazil's chances of winning a record-extending sixth World Cup, and first on home soil, and left Brazilians wondering who can replace him for Tuesday's semi-final showdown with Germany.
As football's governing body, Fifa, said its disciplinary committee was assessing the tackle on Neymar, by Colombian defender Juan Zuniga, which resulted in the injury, Brazil's main newspapers all focused on the striker's plight, sidelining accounts of the team's victory.
The papers published blow-by-blow diagrams of the play in which Neymar was kneed in the back by Zuniga.
"This is terrible news. The worst possible news. Neymar is so important to us," said student Fabian Ruiz, 19, walking with friends down a street in Belo Horizonte, all dressed in Brazil's trademark canary yellow shirts and quaffing beer from cans.
"Without him, the other players will have to fight more. It is going to be so difficult against Germany now."
A large crowd of fans wearing Brazil shirts gathered outside the hotel in Fortaleza where Neymar was taken after the match. As he was being taken in on a stretcher, they chanted: "Forca Neymar," or, "Be strong Neymar."
Social media was flooded with messages about the incident, with many Brazilians calling on Fifa to punish Zuniga in the same way Uruguay striker Luis Suarez was penalised for biting an Italian player.
One columnist went so far as to describe the challenge as a "savage attack".
Fifa spokeswoman Delia Fischer said yesterday: "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."
Wishes for a speedy recovery poured in from all over, including Argentine playmaker Lionel Messi, Neymar's teammate at Barcelona.
Even Brazil President Dilma Rousseff used her Twitter account to call on Brazilians to unite around Neymar and the national team.
Argentine soccer great Diego Maradona also lamented Neymar's injury, telling Venezuela-based Telesur TV network: "It concerns not only the Brazilian people but all of us who love football.
"It was his World Cup, in his country. He had great hopes."