This year's World Cup was a roller-coaster ride for Neymar.
On the one hand, he was not only the best player for Brazil throughout the tournament, but also one of the best players, period. On the other hand, an injury sustained in the quarterfinal against Colombia meant he couldn't play against Germany and had to watch his team get absolutely smoked, losing 7-1.
On Thursday, Neymar spoke about all of it.
He started by talking about joining with his teammates for the third-place game and remaining united as a squad, despite the horrid defeat to Germany. Jack Lang of the Mirror passes along some of those comments:
Neymar: "We have to try to be happy. It was a historic defeat but we cannot walk around with our heads bowed." #BRA— Jack Lang (@snap_kaka_pop) July 10, 2014
Neymar: "Better days will come. We will do everything to bring joy back to the #BRA people, to our families..."— Jack Lang (@snap_kaka_pop) July 10, 2014
Neymar: "We take the responsibility for losing the game, but life goes on." #BRA— Jack Lang (@snap_kaka_pop) July 10, 2014
He also talked about the game getting away from Brazil, and how something like that could happen:
Neymar: "It was a blackout. We conceded goals and it was difficult to get our bearings." #BRA— Jack Lang (@snap_kaka_pop) July 10, 2014
Neymar: "I know what it's like to be on the pitch when that happens: you can't organise, you can't pass, you can't to anything." #BRA— Jack Lang (@snap_kaka_pop) July 10, 2014
Neymar: "I spoke to the players, asked them what happened. They didn't know how to explain it." #BRA— Jack Lang (@snap_kaka_pop) July 10, 2014
Neymar: "If the people on the pitch can't put it into words, who am I – who are we – to explain it?" #BRA— Jack Lang (@snap_kaka_pop) July 10, 2014
Neymar than admitted that, between the loss and the injury, he was having a pretty rough go of it:
Neymar: "It has been one of the worst weeks of my life. If I had tried to imagine a terrible week, it wouldn't have been this bad." #BRA— Jack Lang (@snap_kaka_pop) July 10, 2014
He then focused more on his injury, per Juan Arango of World Soccer Talk:
Neymar: "I pray every day. God wanted me to go through this injury and I respect it. You have to look ahead." [@AlejoEtcheverry]— Juan Arango (@JuanG_Arango) July 10, 2014
And he wasn't terribly pleased with Colombia's Juan Zuniga, the man who injured him by jumping into his back, per Tancredi Palmeri of beIN Sport:
Neymar: "Two centimetres lower that tackle, and I could be in a wheelchair today"— Tancredi Palmeri (@tancredipalmeri) July 10, 2014
But Neymar was still willing to forgive him, per Lang:
Neymar on Zuniga: "I don't accept that kind of challenge. I cannot say whether it was intentional but everyone knows it wasn't normal." #BRA— Jack Lang (@snap_kaka_pop) July 10, 2014
Neymar: "I forgive Zuniga. He even called me the next day to say sorry. I wish him all the best. I don't hold grudges." #BRA— Jack Lang (@snap_kaka_pop) July 10, 2014
In the midst of all of this, he also spoke of the 2018 World Cup, because it's never too soon to look ahead, right?
Neymar on how he plans to prepare for next World Cup: "I'm going to work harder, train more, be more dedicated... do everything I can" #BRA— Jack Lang (@snap_kaka_pop) July 10, 2014
He then discussed his agent, who had some nasty things to say about Brazil manager Luiz Felipe Scolari after the loss to Germany, per Matt Dickinson of The Times:
Neymar also said he disagrees with his agent who called Scolari "an old jerk, arrogant, repulsive, conceited and ridiculous”— Matt Dickinson (@DickinsonTimes) July 10, 2014
To be clear, Neymar wasn't always calmly and coolly expressing himself in the above statements. In fact, he was quite emotional, according to former player and current pundit Gary Lineker:
Watching Neymar on Brazilian TV and the poor fella is sobbing!— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) July 10, 2014
It was the sort of moment that will forever endear Neymar to the Brazilian fans, even after the disappointment of their semifinal loss, as Grant Wahl of SI.com noted:
Had struggled to think of a scenario in which Brazil would fail to win World Cup & Neymar would emerge bigger than ever in Brazil. Not now.— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) July 10, 2014
He's absolutely right. The fact that Neymar wasn't involved in the embarrassing loss to Germany but was quite good while he was in action means that in no way has his reputation been stained by this year's World Cup.
In fact, between his play, Brazil's utter collapse without him and his very emotional, very genuine comments on Thursday, Neymar's star has never burned brighter. He's not just a superstar; he's a superstar who gets it, who connects with his countrymen on a deep level, whose sorrow on Tuesday was as deep as their own.
That will resonate. Perhaps that will inspire his teammates against the Dutch on Saturday. But no one will ever be able to say that Neymar didn't deeply, passionately care about what happened in this year's World Cup.