LUSAIL, Qatar – Brazilian striker Neymar should be fine to continue in the World Cup despite limping off with a swollen ankle during his team’s 2-0 victory over Serbia on Thursday, November 24 (Friday, November 25, Manila time) coach Tite said.
“We are confident that Neymar will continue playing, he will continue playing in the World Cup,” Tite told reporters, confessing that he was initially unaware of his striker’s injury.
“I didn’t see Neymar was hurt. And he had the capacity to overcome this, he even tricked me.”
Team doctor Rodrigo Lasmar said Brazil would wait 24-48 hours before assessing Neymar’s injury.
The Paris St. Germain striker, the most expensive player in the world following his record 222 million-euro ($231 million) transfer from Barcelona, played a pivotal role in Brazil’s win in their first game in Group G in Qatar.
He wriggled into the box to pass to Vinicius Jr. to set up Richarlison for Brazil’s opening goal in the second half.
Later, however, he appeared to be in tears as he left the pitch with a visibly swollen ankle.
That was reminiscent of the back injury which put Neymar out of the World Cup on home soil in 2014.
Match winner Richarlison, who scored a spectacular swiveling overhead volley for Brazil’s second goal, said he had spoken to his teammate to check on his injury.
“It seems he has a hurt ankle and I told him to put a lot of ice on it to recover as soon as possible to have him 100% at the next match. When I get to the hotel, I’m going to go and see how he’s doing,” he said.
Richarlison has now scored nine goals in his last seven games for Brazil and is oozing confidence.
“As our professor Tite has said ‘I am smelling goals’!” he said. “At half time, I told my colleagues I needed a ball and if I got it, I would score. And that’s what happened.
“We had a beautiful victory and now we have another six games to reach our goal.”
Brazil outclassed Serbia 2-0 in the opener as Richarlison’s second-half goals, including a spectacular overhead kick, propelled the five-time champions to the top of Group G.
The Tottenham Hotspur forward has been in fine form when wearing the golden yellow kit of Brazil this year and he opened the scoring with an easy tap-in before doubling the lead with his acrobatic effort.
Tite’s decision to go with four forwards – Neymar, Vinicius Jr., Raphinha and Richarlison – in his attacking lineup paid off handsomely as the South Americans dominated the match and made Serbia work hard every time they went forward.
Vinicius used his acceleration to good effect to constantly beat his man while Neymar, playing in a free role, often found pockets of space, but a well-drilled Serbian defence kept Brazil at bay in the first half.
Serbia had been sweating over the fitness of their all-time top scorer Aleksandar Mitrovic but coach Dragan Stojkovic named him in the starting lineup.
Unlike Brazil’s forward line, however, which threatened from all sides, the Fulham striker found himself isolated up front with little service.
The second half was one-way traffic as Brazil shifted through the gears, Richarlison and Neymar wasting gilt-edged chances inside the box and Alex Sandro and Casemiro sending long-range efforts against the woodwork.
The breakthrough came just after the hour from brilliant work by Neymar to find Vinicius, whose initial shot was saved by Vanja Milinkovic-Savic, but Richarlison was in the right place to tap in the rebound for his first World Cup goal.
Serbia had been playing conservatively up to that point and had no choice but to pour forward, which gave Brazil more space and the second goal from Richarlison brought the biggest roar of the night from the Brazilian contingent.
As Richarlison attempted to control a cross from Vinicius, the ball popped up over his head and he leapt up in the air to volley home a bicycle kick and seal the win for Brazil.
Switzerland are second in the group after they beat Cameroon 1-0 and Serbia are bottom. – Rappler.com