(Reuters) – Brazil’s 2-0 friendly win over Asian champions Qatar in Brasilia on Wednesday came at a heavy cost after they lost striker Neymar for this month’s Copa America because of an ankle ligament injury.
Neymar limped off in the 17th minute after he appeared to twist his right ankle and the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) later confirmed he would miss the tournament.
“Neymar was evaluated and underwent scans that confirmed a ligament rupture in the ankle,” CBF said in a statement.
“Due to the seriousness of the injury, Neymar will not recover in time to participate in Copa America in Brazil.”
The CBF said they would meet on Thursday to pick a replacement for Neymar in the squad for the tournament, which kicks off on June 14.
The injury capped a horrible few days for Paris St-Germain striker, who was stripped of the Brazil captaincy last month and was last weekend accused of rape in a case that has dominated the headlines in his homeland.
Brazil were already leading 1-0 courtesy of Richarlison’s 16th minute header when Neymar departed and Gabriel Jesus added the second eight minutes later from close range.
The five-times world champions were rarely troubled by a limited Qatar side, who missed a VAR-assisted penalty in injury time.
“We won and the feeling is that we won well,” said man of the match Philippe Coutinho. “We pressured them and we did what we wanted to do.”
Once again, though, all attention was focused on Neymar, the world’s most expensive player and a polarizing figure in the football world.
Neymar has suffered several serious injuries dating back to 2014, when a brutal knee in the back from Colombian Juan Camilo Zuniga kept him out of Brazil’s World Cup semi-final defeat by Germany.
He injured a metatarsal in his right foot that sidelined him in the months leading up to the 2018 World Cup and an injury to the same foot in January forced him to miss the business end of this season with Paris St-Germain.
The country’s president Jair Bolsonaro, a football fan who had attended the game, was pictured with a smiling Neymar as the player received treatment at the hospital after the match on Wednesday.
The president’s good wishes for a speedy recovery were to no avail, though, and Brazil will face Bolivia in their Copa America opener on June 14 in Sao Paulo without their best player.
(Reporting by Andrew Downie, additional reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru, editing by Nick Mulvenney)