In 2014, soccer megastar Neymar suffered a back injury in a World Cup match against Colombia. The injury occurred late in the quarterfinal match, when Camilo Zuniga kneed Neymar in the back. Brazil went on to win the match 2-0, but then it faced Germany in the semifinals without Neymar -- where it was soundly trounced by 7-1 in one of the most one-sided matches of all time.
What followed was a long recovery process for Neymar. The official diagnosis was a lumbar vertebrae fracture. Neymar once alluded to the seriousness of the injury. Shortly after he took the hit, he said in an interview that he "could be in a wheelchair" had the knee come a little to the left. Neymar has always been emotional about the injury. He was sidelined until Aug. 4 that year.
In an interview with The Player's Tribune, however, Neymar detailed just how much worse the injury could have been.
"I've experienced many moments that haven't been good," Neymar said about his World Cup career. "But it's about the injury. The injury has been my worst moment because of the week I went through there -- all that. I just cried at home, I would see my mom, my dad, crying -- everyone sad, my friends, family ... and this, to me, has been the worst moment."
After the injury first occurred, Neymar said that he didn't even want to leave the match.
"... And I remember that I had my head on the ground, and Marcelo [Vieira] was saying, 'No, no ... Get the doctors in.' And I said, 'No, no, no. I want to play.' Because I wanted to score."
Unfortunately for Neymar, however, it quickly became apparent that he wouldn't get the chance.
"But I couldn't manage to lift my legs," he explained. "I couldn't move my legs. And the doctor took me out and I started to ... to cry. Because it was very painful and I didn't feel anything. I didn't feel my legs, so I went to the hospital that's in the stadium."
Neymar then explained what the doctor's told him, and how close he came to not being able to walk, let alone play soccer.
Then I went to the hospital, did the tests and all, and they told me, "I have two pieces of news. One good and one bad."
And I was like, "The bad one first."
"The bad one: You can't play the World Cup. It's over for you."
And I'm like, "What's the good one?"
"The good one," of course, was a huge blessing. "'The good one is that afterward you will be able to walk, because two centimeters to the side ... football is over for you.'"
Neymar is back and playing again, and looking ahead to 2018. Of the field, particularly smaller countries, he said: "Yes, I think the level has gotten better. I think they are better prepared to play against stronger national teams, against better players, and I think the preparation is very good because all national teams today manage to come out playing, manage to tie away games, and the football is very tough, very difficult ... Eh, [Lionel Messi's] Argentina ... Hahaha! ... yet again, suffering a lot."
Brazil seems equipped to make another run, and with Neymar at the helm, there's always a chance. Although the World Cup is competitive, it has its edge back. And Neymar provides all the edge that Brazil needs.