German football great Franz Beckenbauer has defended Colombia player Juan Zuniga over his challenge on Neymar, which has ruled the Brazil star out of the World Cup.
“As regrettable as the broken vertebra of Neymar is, I have a hard time accusing Colombia’s Juan Zuniga of doing it intentionally,” Beckenbauer writes in his World Cup column for DPA Global Media service.
“He did hit Neymar in the back with his knee, where it certainly doesn’t belong. But to me it looked more like clumsiness.”
Beckenbauer said it was “really a shame that the mood ahead of the semifinal matches has been dampened by the serious injury to Neymar.”
With Brazil captain Thiago Silva suspended, the hosts would appear to be outsiders now against Germany in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday but instead they could be liberated, Beckenbauer said.
Beckenbauer has been impressed by Dutch winger Arjen Robben, who helped the Netherlands overcome Costa Rica on penalties Saturday in Salvador to set up a semifinal against Argentina in Sao Paulo on Wednesday.
“I am not a prophet, but if Arjen Robben continues to play so brilliantly he — along with (Germany goalkeeper) Manuel Neuer — has the best chances of being named best player of the 2014 World Cup,” he said.