It seemed like only a few minutes earlier that the final whistle had blown, the Brazil players all smiles as they left the field and the media quickly immersed in exchanging their verdicts on A Seleção’s quarter-final victory over Colombia, as well as looking eagerly ahead to next Tuesday’s semi versus Germany. Yet suddenly, once the time came for the players to leave the dressing room, the mood had changed dramatically.

As opposed to the on-the-field stars, it was Dr Rodrigo Lasmar – one of the team doctors – who found himself in the greatest demand for interviews, in conversations that featured the ominous words “transverse process fracture of the third vertebra”. Forced to exit the fray late on, Brazil’s main man Neymar will play no further part at this FIFA World Cup™.

“The only reason I wasn’t totally happy when I left the pitch today was because I didn’t really know what Ney’s situation was. All we can do now is pray that he’s OK and will be back to help us,” had said David Luiz to FIFA, thus ending a previously upbeat interview on a note of foreboding. Not long afterwards, with most of the Brazilian players already on their team coach, Luiz’s fears proved justified – the rumours that had begun to spread on the seriousness of Neymar’s injury were eventually confirmed by Dr Lasmar.

I’m certain that we’ve got quality players who can fill in for him. I’ve got a lot of faith in Willian, who’s got similar characteristics.

Thiago Silva on the injury to Neymar

“Unfortunately, Neymar is out of the World Cup. Luckily it’s something we call a ‘benign fracture’: it’s not the kind of fracture that does lasting damage and it can be treated conservatively, without surgery. The recovery period varies a great deal between different players, it’s something between four and six weeks,” the doctor told FIFA.com, clearly a little shell-shocked himself.

It had only been moments earlier, after all, that he had been anxiously waiting to hear from Dr Jose Luiz Runco, head of A Seleção’s medical staff, who had taken Neymar for a CT (computerised tomography) scan. When the call came through, Lasmar suddenly became the man to deliver the news that would devastate a whole nation – a nation in the midst of celebrating reaching a first World Cup semi-final for 12 years.

Seeking Plan B
And it was in the thick of the mixed zone, where he was being quizzed about the match and his own absence from the upcoming last-four clash through suspension, that captain Thiago Silva was given the Neymar diagnosis. To his credit, the Seleção skipper did not gasp or reel, instead vowing that “we can work something out. We’ve got several players who can turn a game.”

Not that he could resist a sideways glance further down the line, where Dr Lasmar, surrounded by journalists, was being grilled for the umpteenth time on what exactly is a transverse process fracture. “Rodrigo’s confirming it is he?” said the Paris Saint-Germain central defender, as if the bad news was only then truly sinking in.

“It’s very sad. It’s sad because only we know how much that lad dreamed about this World Cup,” he went on, before signing off in bullish fashion. “Even so, I’m certain that we’ve got quality players who can fill in for him. I’ve got a lot of faith in Willian, who’s got similar characteristics. We’re going to win this World Cup. Not just for Neymar, but for all of us. We deserve it.”