World Cup ends for Brazil's Neymar after fracturing vertebra in Colombia clash
If Brazil are to win the World Cup in the Maracana, they will have to do so without their talisman Neymar.
The hosts and tournament favourites set up a semi-final clash with Germany by disposing of Colombia in Fortaleza, Thiago Silva bundling home early on before David Luiz's 35-yard free-kick meant James Rodriguez's penalty was mere consolation.
However, the joy of that 2-1 win was tinged with concern over the fitness of Barcelona forward Neymar, who left the field on a stretcher in the closing stages.
The 22-year-old was in tears after taking a knee to the back from Juan Zuniga, with Brazil doctor Rodrigo Lasmar confirming he has sustained a fractured vertebra that will end his World Cup.
"It's not serious in the sense that it doesn't need surgery, but he'll need to immobilise it to recover," Lasmar said. "Unfortunately, he's not going to be able to play."
Lasmar expects the recovery time to be at least a few weeks, ruling Neymar out of Tuesday's semi-final against Germany and the final, should Brazil get there, on July 13.
Zuniga insisted he was "playing for the shirt from my country, not with the intent to injure", but Neymar was crying in pain as he left the stadium.
His absence will be a huge blow to Brazil, who will also be missing suspended captain Silva for their semi-final with Germany.
Joachim Low's side earlier eased through to that stage for a record fourth consecutive time after a straightforward 1-0 win over France in Rio de Janeiro.
Germany, who have also reached the last four of the previous two European Championships, progressed thanks to Mats Hummels' 12th-minute header in Rio de Janeiro.
Low believes hosts Brazil will start with an advantage in the semi-final in Belo Horizonte, however.
He added: "They will have a home advantage, you can't deny that. The South Americans are fighting for their lives here.
"But we have quite a record - our president told me we have won 28 out of 31 official matches so that's quite a performance.
"This team has intrinsic qualities, is solid and stable and since 2010 we have taken on board new players like Mats Hummels, we have invested a lot."
France counterpart Didier Deschamps insisted there was not much to choose between the teams but felt their rivals' extra experience had made the difference.
He said: "They are used to playing big matches and have a more experienced team.
"The players are a bit frustrated as there was not a massive gap but the adventure stops here.
"I am quite proud of what we have achieved so far. I'm hurt and disappointed but there are a lot of positive things happening with this team."
Belfast Telegraph Digital