Brazil star Neymar could not hold back the tears as he revealed he had come within a few inches of being paralysed.
Neymar, giving his first press conference after being hospitalised with a fractured vertebrae in Brazil’s World Cup quarter-final win over Colombia, also said he disagreed with his agent for calling coach Luiz Felipe Scolari “a repulsive and conceited old jerk”.
The 22-year-old also revealed Colombia defender Juan Zuniga had called him to apologise for the knee in the back that initially left him unable to feel his legs.
“Zuniga called me a few days later to apologise and to tell me that he did not intend to hurt me,” Neymar said. “I accept his apology, but I cannot consider that a normal action.
“I cannot say whether it was intentional, but everyone knows it wasn’t normal. The way he came in, behind me, I couldn’t defend myself.
“I thank God for helping me, because if that blow had been a few inches lower I would have risked being paralysed.”
Neymar added that he could not conceive what had gone wrong in Brazil’s 7-1 semi-final defeat by Germany.
He said: “What has happened is inexplicable. But even at 6-0, 7-0 down, they did not give up, they kept running, kept trying.
“I’m not ashamed to be Brazilian and I’m not ashamed to be part of this team. I am proud of every one of my team-mates.”
He also distanced himself from his agent Wagner Ribeiro, who launched a bizarre Twitter outburst at Scolari.
Ribeiro produced a sarcastic list of “six requirements to be Brazilian coach” on his Twitter account including “going to Chelsea and being sacked the following day” and “being an old jerk, arrogant, repulsive, conceited and ridiculous”.
Neymar said: “Scolari should stay as coach. I do not agree with what my agent Ribeiro said. He doesn’t speak for me – only my father can speak on my behalf.”
The player hopes Brazil’s arch rivals Argentina triumph over Germany in Sunday’s final as it means his Barcelona club-mates Lionel Messi and Javier Mascherano will be winners.
“I hope that in the final my friends Mascherano and Messi will win,” Neymar said before leaving the press conference in tears, and to applause.
Scolari is expected to be replaced when Brazil’s tournament comes to an end after the third-place play-off with Holland on Saturday, and former Corinthians coach Tite, who led the club to a Copa Libertadores-FIFA Club World Cup double, is the favourite to succeed him.
Earlier, Brazil’s sports minister had called for an inquiry to find out the “root causes of the disaster” after the 7-1 defeat.
Aldo Rebelo, who had previously referred to the 1950 final defeat by Uruguay as “national tragedy”, told a news conference in Rio: It’s a terrible blemish for Brazilian football, because against Germany we have played 12 times and lost only four times.
“We must analyse the root causes of this disaster, learn the lessons and try to correct them so this doesn’t happen again so that Brazil can regain its status in world football.”
Rebelo said the 1950 Brazil team were “a constellation of stars” and “much better than what we have today.”
Tite is viewed as Scolari’s most likely replacement, with Sao Paulo coach Muricy Ramalho and former Brazil and Real Madrid manager Vanderlei Luxemburgo also in the running.