It was a bad challenge that sent Neymar out of the World Cup and damaged Brazil‘s chance to win on their home soil. Juan Camilo Zuniga went in hard in the end of a game when his nation was losing. Colombia needed a play and Zuniga was overzealous. Brazil fans are mad as one would expect when the star player is hurt. However, there was never intent from Zuniga to injure Neymar.
The challenge happened late in the game, so there was some sentiment that Zuniga’s thought process was reckless with Colombia’s chances slipping away. However, it was a very contentious match that was highly physical. Colombia never played like they were out of the match. Why would Zuniga put his team’s chances in jeopardy? Players do make dumb mistakes, but this game was not played clumsily.
Zuniga’s eyes were always on the ball until he made contact with Neymar. He simply wanted to win the ball and provide another chance for Colombia. This injury is said to be one that happens if you are hit just right. After Zuniga had a chance to catch his breath a day after losing and being knocked out of the World Cup, he made a heartfelt apology on Instagram.
“I deeply regret the sad injury that Neymar suffered during the match between Brazil and Colombia. 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.”
Brazilian star Ronaldo thought there was intent to injure calling the contact in the 88th minute “violent.” He may be a bit biased as are many are cheering for Brazil. Stepping back from the rooting interest, one should see that there are a lot of things that have to happen for the injury to occur. One report had Neymar an inch from being paralyzed, but many who have played sports have had similar contact to come away with only bruises.
In many ways, this is a matter of opinion, but it is hard to believe that such a physical match included intent to injure a star player. Zuniga most likely felt he could win that ball, so he went for it. Unfortunately, Brazil and Neymar paid a hefty price.