Teresopolis: The whole of Brazil can breathe a sigh of relief as star striker Neymar quickly recovered after going down with an ankle injury during training on Monday.
The Barcelona star rolled his ankle during the Selecao’s training session outside Rio de Janeiro forcing him to receive treatment on the pitch.
However, Brazil’s poster-boy was able to pick himself up and walk gingerly away before firing free-kicks into the net. He also went on to finish the training game at Brazil’s Granja Comary base in Teresopolis.
Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari spoke of how vital Neymar is to the cause ahead of the big kick-off.
“Neymar is wonderful. Even if he doesn’t play, he works hard. He’s great as a player, but also as a person.”
A sprain to Neymar’s right ankle earlier this year sidelined him from Barcelona’s ranks for just under four weeks.
Despite suffering that knock, Neymar still had time to help a young fan fulfil a dream.
The youngster ran on to the pitch during Brazil’s training session, and just as he was about to be escorted away by security, Brazil’s No.10 beckoned him back and took photos of him with the rest of the Brazil team.
Right-back Dani Alves played down the injury concerns, saying the host nation’s players would be at their best when they open their campaign against Croatia, on Thursday.
“The moment of truth is starting now,” he told reporters, turning the focus to the opener. “It’s not just about three points, it should also send a message to future rivals.
“I think it’s the most important game of the World Cup, along with the final. It will be very important to win the first match… That will help us in garnering more support for the team.”
Alves was confident of a different mood across town at the new Corinthians arena that will host the opening match. “Because we’re playing at home... I’m certain the people will be on our side,” said Alves. “That will confirm that the Brazilian team is the favourite.”
Support for the team has grown at their training ground north of Rio de Janeiro with a crowd of about 1,000 fans greeting them on their return from Sao Paulo on Sunday.
That contrasted with two weeks before, when a group of teachers circled the team bus to protest over spending on the World Cup as part of a strike.
Anger over the amount spent on the finals and broken promises ahead of the tournament contributed to a wave of demonstrations last year with opponents questioning whether hosting global sporting events should be a national priority.
“For us it’s a gift to see the fans, our people, now understand that the Cup has arrived in Brazil and it’s going to be an amazing moment,” said Alves.
“I know it is difficult sometimes for us to set aside the situation our country is in, but the world is going to be here and they deserve a real Brazilian reception.”
Alves acknowledged that Brazil's defence isn't perfect, but said the team is working to improve before the opener.