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Tearful Neymar backs 'friend' Messi to win

Tearful Brazil star Neymar says he is prepared to set aside the historical rivalry between South America's two footballing heavyweights as he wants four-time world footballer of the year Lionel Messi to win the World Cup when Argentina meets Germany in Sunday's final. At an emotional press conference Neymar, who missed Brazil's 7-1 humiliation against Germany in the semi-finals because of a broken vertebrae, said his Barcelona clubmate Messi deserved to add World Cup winner to his honours.

"Messi's history in the sport is so important, he has won a lot of trophies and I will be cheering for him," said Neymar. "He is a friend, he is my team-mate and I wish him luck." His own misfortune prompted Neymar to wipe away tears as he described his fears, immediately after the knee in the back from Colombian Juan Camil Zuniga in the quarter-final, that he would be paralysed.

"I was blessed in that situation because it wasn't more serious. Two more centimetres up and, well, I could be in a wheelchair. So it is really difficult. "It happened at such an important point in my career," he said. It was something I cannot accept. That challenge and what happened was unacceptable," added the 22-year-old.

Neymar's support of Messi, and by extension Argentina, is unlikely to be shared by many of his compatriots. Brazilians are dreading the prospect of Argentina claiming their third world title in the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday. The South American nations are sworn footballing enemies, and Argentina's advance to the final rubbed salt into Brazilian wounds still fresh from Tuesday's record defeat to Germany.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2014