BRASILIA (AFP) – Superstar Neymar was ruled out of the Copa America yesterday after tearing his right ankle ligament during Brazil’s 2-0 friendly win over Qatar.
“Due to the seriousness of the injury, Neymar will neither be fit nor have time to recuperate sufficiently to participate” in the tournament, the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) said in a statement.
The injury to the world’s most expensive footballer is a big blow to the hosts’ preparations for South American continental championship, which begins in just over a week’s time.
A distraught-looking Neymar was seen covering his face with his hands as he sat on the bench after hobbling from the field in the 20th minute at Brasilia’s Mane Garrincha Stadium on Wednesday night.
A large ice pack had been strapped to the Paris Saint-Germain striker’s lower right leg while two members of Brazil’s support staff carried him from the pitch.
The injury comes just nine days before Brazil’s opening Copa America game against Bolivia.
Minutes after Richarlison had opened the scoring in the 17th minute, Neymar was substituted with the CBF saying he had suffered “a ligament rupture at the level of the right ankle”.
With Neymar ruled out, the host nation face an uphill battle to win South America’s continental championship for the first time since 2007.
– Rape allegation –
Neymar’s ankle injury was just the latest twist in the soap opera surrounding the striker, who has dominated headlines in Brazil since Saturday after a woman accused him of raping her in a Paris hotel.
Neymar has strongly denied the allegations, and had continued to train with his Brazilian team-mates for the Copa America.
Earlier on Wednesday, the CBF president Rogerio Caboclo had insisted for the second time this week that Neymar would play in the Copa America despite the allegations.
Caboclo’s assurances, who cost PSG a world record fee of $248 million in 2017, came after CBF VP Francisco Noveletto was quoted by Brazilian media Tuesday as saying he was willing to “bet” that Neymar would quit.
“Neymar doesn’t have the psychological condition to face the Copa America and journalists,” Noveletto said.