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Neymar backs Messi’s Argentina

Saturday, July 12, 2014
Brazil’s Neymar wipes a tear during a press conference at the Granja Comary training centre in Teresopolis, Brazil, Thursday. The Brazilian soccer star is back on his feet after suffering a broken vertebrae during a World Cup soccer match against Colombia. Brazil will be disputing a third place finish, without its star today. AP Photo

Rio de Janeiro—Tearful Brazil star Neymar says he is prepared to set aside the historical rivalry between South America’s two footballing heavyweights as he wants four-time world footballer of the year Lionel Messi to win the World Cup when Argentina meets Germany in tomorrow’s final. At an emotional press conference Neymar, who missed Brazil’s 7-1 humiliation against Germany in the semifinals because of a broken vertebrae, said his Barcelona clubmate Messi deserved to add World Cup winner to his honours. “Messi’s history in the sport is so important, he has won a lot of trophies and I will be cheering for him,” said Neymar. “He is a friend, he is my team-mate and I wish him luck.”


His own misfortune prompted Neymar to wipe away tears as he described his fears, immediately after the knee in the back from Colombian Juan Camil Zuniga in the quarterfinal, that he would be paralysed. “I was blessed in that situation because it wasn’t more serious. Two more centimetres up and, well, I could be in a wheelchair. So it is really difficult.“It happened at such an important point in my career,” he said. “It was something I cannot accept. That challenge and what happened was unacceptable,” added the 22-year-old. Neymar’s support of Messi, and by extension Argentina, is unlikely to be shared by many of his compatriots. Brazilians are dreading the prospect of Argentina claiming their third world title in the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.


The South American nations are sworn footballing enemies, and Argentina’s advance to the final rubbed salt into Brazilian wounds still fresh from Tuesday’s record defeat to Germany. “The nightmare continues,” O Dia newspaper commented glumly after Argentina booked their place in the final by beating the Netherlands on Wednesday. As many as 100,000 Argentine fans are expected to descend on Rio for the final, the climax of a month-long footballing fiesta. Germany meanwhile said they had quickly wiped away the euphoria felt from their thrashing of Brazil. Germany’s veteran striker Miroslav Klose, who became the World Cup’s all-time leading scorer with the second goal against Brazil, said his team had quickly forgotten the momentous win. “We enjoyed the game against Brazil, but we ticked it off after 24 hours,” Klose said. “In the next game, we have to again play to the best of our abilities.” 


Argentina’s players began plotting Germany’s downfall as they returned to Belo Horizonte. Striker Sergio Aguero said his teammates were comfortable in the marginal underdog role, insisting all the pressure would be on Germany. “Germany were always the favourites, along with Brazil, to win the World Cup,” the Manchester City man said. “They continue to be so now. We need to play our own game and it suits us that all the pressure is on them.”


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