DON’T write off Neymar, says Brazil manager Tite as he discreetly pointed to the star striker, now undergoing 24-hour physiotherapy.
He’s under terrific recuperation despite a “very swollen ankle” as he continues his recovery sustained in their opening World Cup win over Serbia.
“But if you’re writing him off, you will regret it as he won’t be on the sidelines for a prolonged time but he ready for the crucial knockout stages,” said Tite in multiple media interviews.
There were fears the injury sustained by Neymar — with right-back Danilo also forced off in the match with an ankle injury — would see them sidelined for the rest of the tournament.
“I believe that Neymar and Danilo will play the World Cup,” Tite told a news conference. “I believe in that. Medically, clinically, they can talk more about the stages of the treatment. [But] I have no place to talk. I trust that we will be able to use both of them.”
Neymar was replaced in the 80th minute of their 2-0 win, but it was later revealed he sustained the injury earlier in the match after a robust tackle from Nikola Milenkovic.
Tite accepted responsibility for not substituting Neymar sooner, saying he did not realise the forward had picked up an injury.
“He was injured, I didn’t see that he was injured, we didn’t have that information, I didn’t notice,” Tite said. “The information didn’t come, it didn’t come, he tried to stay in the field, until he fell. At that moment he was able to continue for the team, to participate in the goals.”
Brazil defender Marquinhos revealed Neymar is sleeping in the physiotherapy room at their hotel in Doha. The defender said the forward has gone through a variety of emotions since sustaining the injury, but is focused on playing a role in this World Cup for Brazil.
“I think that, at the time, at the moment, it’s a delicate, difficult situation,” Marquinhos said of Neymar’s injury. “After the match, I saw him sad, it’s normal, because of everything he dreamed of, wanted, the desire he had.
“But today, after exams, treatment, he is sleeping in physiotherapy, doing physiotherapy 24 hours a day. This shows how much he wants to be with us, that’s it . We don’t know when. Today we see him much better. It’s very important to be with us. a good head, which greatly influences this moment of recovery. I see him very confident when he returns. And that helps with his return.”
He believes the squad is strong enough to cope without Neymar and Danilo, but emphasised how important they are to the team.
Neymar is a legend of sorts. He played 230 professional games for his first club Santos FC, scoring 138 goals before moving to Barcelona in Europe, where he scored an impressive 105 goals in 186 games. He won the Champions League in 2015 and the Olympic games in Rio in 2016, alongside his current teammates Marquinhos and Rafinha.
In 2017, he hit the headlines when he signed for Paris Saint-Germain before then teaming up with another high-powered new arrival, Kylian Mbappé, determined to write history.
Tite describes him as a “technical leader, a dribbling genius, an unpredictable detonator”.
* Suresh Nair is an award-winning sports journalist who is also a qualified international coach and international referee instructor.
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