Scolari: Neymar feared paralysis shortly after sustaining back injury
Brazil talisman Neymar feared he was paralyzed shortly after the knee in the back that ended his World Cup.
Neymar was ruled out of the tournament last Friday when he was hit in the lower back during an aerial challenge with Colombia defender Juan Zuniga.
Scans revealed Neymar had fractured a vertebra following the collision, but the player initially believed the injury was much more serious when he lay prostrate on the pitch, according to Luiz Felipe Scolari.
"Marcelo ran up to Neymar (directly after the challenge) and asked him how he was feeling and he told him: ‘I can’t feel my legs.’," the Brazil coach was quoted as saying by Marca.
Luckily for Neymar, he will not suffer any such long-term effects.
"He does not have any neurological injury that would compromise his life as an athlete or a human being," Brazil’s team doctor Jose Luiz Runco said.
"He will be out for 40-45 days. Then he will be able to pass, to run."
Neymar thanked his team-mates for their support in an emotional video recorded at the team’s training ground in Teresopolis on Saturday.
He was then flown to his home city of Guaruja, where he began his rehabilitation.
Scolari has asked the 22-year-old to make the short flight to Belo Horizonte to cheer Brazil on during Tuesday’s semi-final against Germany though.
"He will be with us if he can, on the bench or in the stands," the former Chelsea manager said.
"We have already asked him to do this. It all will depend on how he is in the upcoming days. If he can do it, I am certain that he will."
The Brazil squad will fly to Belo Horizonte on Monday for the final stage of their semi-final preparation.
Scolari will have to find a replacement for Thiago Silva, who is unlikely to win an appeal against his second booking of the tournament against Colombia.
But the biggest task on his hands is filling the gap left by Neymar, who was Brazil’s top scorer at the World Cup with four goals.
"It’s equivalent to a catastrophe," the Brazil coach said of losing his star man.
"Neymar is out reference. He is a player that would make the difference in any team. We have lost the one player we did not want to lose, and it’s for the semi-final and final."
The Brazilian federation (CBF) confirmed on Sunday that team psychologist Regina Brandao would visit Teresopolis.
Scolari found the ordeal of seeing his best player injured hard to take. "It was a big shock," he said. "The image of Neymar being carried off a stretcher towards the plane, the difficulties, the tears…"
Scolari has several options to replace Neymar. Paulinho or Fernandinho could be asked to play a more advanced role now that regular midfielder Luis Gustavo is back from suspension.
But the two biggest contenders to fill Neymar’s position are Chelsea forward Willian or Shakhtar Donetsk’s Bernard.
Neither player has started a match for Brazil during the World Cup, but Willian has come off the bench in all but one of the team’s matches.
Bernard, a tricky, diminutive 21-year-old, has made two substitute appearances during the tournament.