BRASILIA, Brazil — Neymar became emotional when talking Thursday about the injury that ruled him out of the World Cup, saying if the knee to his back had been slightly more to one side he “could be in a wheelchair” now.

The Brazil striker cried as he recalled the injury, saying “God blessed” him and prevented a more serious injury. Neymar stopped talking for several seconds, lowering his head and putting a hand in front of his eyes.

“It’s difficult to talk about a move that (happened) in such an important moment of my career,” he said.

Neymar fractured his third vertebra when defender Juan Camilo Zuniga hit him from behind in a challenge late in the quarterfinal against Colombia.

“If it had been 2 centimeters to the center …,” he said, struggling to stay composed. “I could be in a wheelchair.”

Neymar, 22, complained about Zuniga’s challenge, although he said Zuniga called to apologize.

“I don’t know if he was trying to hurt me, but if you understand football you know that it was not a normal challenge,” Neymar said. “I can’t protect myself when I’m not facing the play. The only thing that can protect me from someone coming from behind are the rules. I couldn’t protect myself and I ended getting hurt.”

Neymar had been recovering at home but returned to the team’s training camp Thursday. He will travel with the squad to Brasilia for the third-place match Saturday against the Netherlands.

Neymar said the injury led to “the worst week of his life,” one that culminated – in his absence – with Brazil’s 7-1 thrashing by Germany in the semifinals. He didn’t know how to explain what happened, and it would be “unfair for this group” to be remembered by that result alone.

“It would have been all right to lose but not like this. It was unbelievable, inexplicable,” Neymar said. “I don’t have the words to explain what happened.”

He said the loss was “part of football,” and thought Brazil had the potential to rebound and win the next World Cup.

“We can’t lower our heads,” he said. “It will hurt for a long time but better days will come.”

ARGENTINA: FIFA fined the Argentine Football Association $340,000 for failing to bring players to pre-match news conferences.

The FIFA disciplinary committee said Argentina, which plays in the World Cup final Sunday against Germany, breached the competition’s media and marketing regulations.

The rules require teams to bring at least one player along with the coach to official news conferences held one day in advance of each match.

 Argentina winger Angel Di Maria is racing against the clock to recover from a thigh injury.

A team spokesman said Di Maria was practicing at “60-80 percent” at the team base in Belo Horizonte, and team doctors would monitor his condition on a daily basis “to see if he can play.”

AMERICAN MIDFIELDER Mix Diskerud scored in his first game back with Norway’s Rosenborg following the World Cup, a 2-0 win at Latvia’s Jelgava in the first qualifying round of the Europa League.

Diskerud scored the second goal in the 73rd minute as Rosenborg advanced on 6-0 aggregate in the total-goals series.

Rosenborg plays Sligo Rovers of Ireland in the second qualifying round July 17 and 24.

EACH OF the World Cup semifinals was seen by an average of more than 12 million viewers in the United States on ESPN and Spanish-language Univision.

ESPN said Germany’s 7-1 rout over host Brazil on Tuesday averaged 6,643,000 viewers and Argentina’s penalty-kicks win over the Netherlands the following day averaged 6,823,000.

The games, which both kicked off at 4 p.m., are the two highest-rated World Cup semifinals on any U.S. network, ESPN said.

A WORLD CUP hospitality company director was declared a fugitive by Brazilian police investigating a ticket scalping scheme.

Police said the probe is set to expand to include FIFA and domestic football officials.

Investigator Fabio Barucke said Ray Whelan left the lavish Copacabana Palace through a service entry about an hour before police arrived to arrest him.

ONCE THE World Cup and its traveling circus leaves town, four gleaming stadiums that cost $1.6 billion and hosted massive crowds will echo noisily as their owners struggle to find a use for them or even partially fill them.

In the western Brazilian city of Cuiaba, Chilean and Colombian fans produced sellouts at the Arena Pantanal of 40,000 at the World Cup. The next big game at the $260 million stadium is July 20 – Paysandu vs. Cuiaba for the championship of Brazil’s Serie C, or the third division. Officials are hoping for 4,000 fans.

Similar letdowns await at least three other new stadiums built for the World Cup: in the capital Brasilia, the Amazon jungle city of Manaus, and in Natal on the northeastern coast.

CHILE STRIKER Alexis Sanchez ended his three-year stint at Barcelona by joining Arsenal for a reported fee of $60 million, adding some much-needed firepower to the English Premier League side.

Sanchez, 25, who impressed in Chile’s run to the last 16 of the World Cup, signed a “long-term” contract with the London club.

He is Arsenal’s second-most expensive signing, after Germany playmaker Mesut Ozil, and gives the team options up front as a replacement or foil to Olivier Giroud, or as a right winger.

FILIPPO INZAGHI, the new AC Milan coach, hopes the criticism Mario Balotelli faced recently will help him grow as a player.

Balotelli was the target of more blame than most players for Italy’s first-round elimination from the World Cup, and also had an up-and-down campaign with Milan last season despite leading the club with 14 goals in 30 appearances.

“I spoke with Balotelli after Italy’s exit and I told him that the criticism should serve only to strengthen him,” Inzaghi said at a festive preseason training kickoff event at the club’s new headquarters. “I didn’t have everything served to me on a silver platter during my career; unfair criticism helped me.”

GERMANY: The players will celebrate at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin if they defeat Argentina in the World Cup final.

Coach Joachim Loew’s team is expected to return home Tuesday morning after Sunday’s final in Rio de Janeiro.

The German football federation said Berlin and Frankfurt offered to host possible title celebrations. The federation and the team then decided on the capital.