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World Cup: Injury-hit Brazil get timely Neymar boost

Tite says Neymar’s return is with full backing of team’s medical staff even though player’s physical health is top priority
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Our Bureau   |   Al Rayyan   |   Published 05.12.22, 04:37 AM

Neymar is set to play for Brazil in their World Cup last-16 clash against South Korea at Stadium 974 on Monday after recovering from an ankle injury, coach Tite said.

Neymar suffered the injury in Brazil’s opening 2-0 win over Serbia, which ruled him out of their remaining two group-stage games versus Switzerland and Cameroon.


Full-back Danilo was also cleared by the medical staff for the game against South Korea. “If Neymar looks sharp in the training session and he trains well, he’ll play,” Tite told a news conference on Sunday.

Tite’s counterpart, Paulo Bento, however, minced no words to say that the South Koreans would be quite happy if there’s no Neymar in Brazil’s line-up on Monday. 

“We would be hypocrites if we said we’d prefer playing with Neymar. That’s a lie,” Bento said. “We would prefer he wouldn’t be in the field of play.”

Neymar has suffered many issues with his right foot and underwent surgery four years ago for a fractured metatarsal. The news of his return to the starting line-up came after Thiago Silva was asked during the news conference if Neymar would play before Tite took hold of the microphone, saying “yes”.

It will be warmly welcomed in a squad beset by fitness woes with Alex Sandro suffering a hip injury against the Swiss. Alex Telles and forward Gabriel Jesus, who sustained a knee injury against Cameroon, were ruled out for the rest of the tournament on Saturday.

Tite said Danilo was also fit to return against South Korea on Monday while Sandro was out. “He (Sandro) still can’t play. He’s still recovering. Danilo and Neymar are back,” the Brazil coach said.

Tite stressed that Neymar’s return was with the full backing of the team’s medical staff even though the player’s physical health was the top priority.

“If he plays, it’s because he is in good health and ready to start. We feel he will be able to play from the beginning and the entire game with no limitations,” Tite said.

“My preference is always to play my best players from the start.”

With Neymar back, Tite said there will be no changes in the forward line from the team that had started against Serbia, with Lucas Paqueta behind Neymar, Vinicius Jr, Raphinha and Richarlison.

The biggest question mark is who plays as the left-back with Sandro and Telles ruled out. Marquinhos replaced the Sevilla defender after he sustained the injury against Cameroon, but right-back Danilo and midfielder Everton Ribeiro are also at Tite’s disposal.

“Sandro’s replacement will be a player who has already played in that position in his club. Make your research and you will find out who he is,” Tite said.

‘Unfair’ schedule

An aggrieved Bento expressed his disappointment over the schedule of this World Cup. South Korea beat Portugal 2-1 on Friday to advance to the last 16 but will take on Brazil after just two days off. “In my opinion, I don’t think it’s fair to play games after just 72 hours,” Bento said.

South Korea will again be relying on talisman Son Heung-min to lead from the front in Monday’s clash.

Written with Reuters inputs

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