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TERESOPOLIS Brazil (Reuters) - An emotional Neymar cried as he recalled the challenge that ended his World Cup on Thursday and said he felt blessed not to have ended up in a wheelchair.
Colombia defender Juan Zuniga kneed the Brazil forward in the back in the closing stages of the hosts' 2-1 quarter-final victory, ruling him out of the tournament before the team's traumatic 7-1 semi-final defeat by Germany.
"I won't say he came to injure me, I don't what was going on in his head but everyone who understands football can see that it wasn't a normal challenge," Neymar told reporters at Brazil’s base camp just outside Rio de Janeiro.
"When you want to foul someone to stop a game or stop a counter-attack, you kick their ankles, you push, you pull, but the way the ball was falling, it wasn't a normal game situation.
"Many of you say I am a diver and I don't care that you say that. I can defend myself when I can see what's going on around me," he added
"But I can't defend myself from what comes from behind. What defends me in that situation is the rules and I couldn't defend myself from that and I was injured.
"God blessed me," Neymar said, breaking down in tears. "If it had been another two centimeters I could be in a wheelchair today."
Neymar said Zuniga called him the next day to apologize but he stopped short of forgiving his rival for the challenge.
"I don’t hate him, I don’t hold a grudge," Neymar said. "But I don’t feel anything."
Brazil will play the Netherlands in Saturday's third-place playoff and Germany face Argentina in the final on Sunday.
Writing by Andrew Downie, editing by Ed Osmond