Brazil will look to recover from their upset loss to Cameroon as they face South Korea brimming with confidence.
Who: Brazil vs South Korea
Where: Stadium 974
When: December 5, 10:00 PM (7:00 PM GMT)
Brazil will face South Korea in the last 16 of the World Cup on Monday with the health of the great Pele and with coach Tite questioning whether to recall current Seleção Canarinho number 10 Neymar after suffering an ankle injury kept him out of the last two games.
Tite used his press conference ahead of Friday’s final group stage match against Cameroon to wish Pele a speedy recovery after the all-time great was hospitalized in Sao Paulo during the week.
The three-time World Cup winner, now aged 82, has undergone a “reassessment” of the chemotherapy he underwent following surgery to remove a bowel tumor last September.
Brazil fans also unfurled a banner with a “get well soon” message for Pele before the game against Cameroon, which the Seleção lost 1-0, their first group stage defeat since 1998.
Brazil have a terrifying array of attacking options, even with Gabriel Jesus returning home injured, but they have scored just once since Neymar suffered an ankle sprain in their first 2-0 win over Serbia on November 24.
“With his return, the whole team will improve,” said Richarlison, the scorer of both goals against Serbia, on Friday. “I hope he comes back. Everyone saw how much we missed him in the last two games. I think his return will make me better.”
If Brazil wins at Doha’s Stadium 974, they will progress to a quarter-final against Japan or Croatia, with a last four showdown against big rivals Argentina still on the line.
South Korea were the second-lowest-ranked side to reach the knockout stages, but the Tottenham Hotspurs forward was clear the Brazilians would not take them lightly.
“It is an aggressive and strong team. We cannot afford to make mistakes,” Richarlison warned.
Still, the South Koreans will know the odds are against them. Coach Paulo Bento’s team has recently experienced how encouraging it can be to play against Brazil. The teams met in June in a friendly in Seoul and Brazil won 5–1, with Neymar scoring two penalties.
But this has been a World Cup of setbacks. Brazil, Belgium, Argentina and France – the top four ranked teams in the world – have all lost to significantly less popular teams in the group stage of this tournament. Four-time winner Germany could not even make it to the knockouts.
The South Koreans have also scored their own surprise victory: their tournament seemed to be over until substitute Hwang Hee-chan showed up in stoppage time to score the winner in a 2-1 victory over already qualified Portugal on Friday.
They will rely on talisman Son Heung-min to lead them against Brazil on Monday after he went down on Friday to ensure his team reached the last 16.
“This is great, but our tournament is not over yet,” said Son – who happens to be Richarlison’s Spurs teammate – after the emotions of the dramatic victory over Portugal.
“We have always talked about reaching the round of 16 as our goal, but now we have to try to go further than that,” Son, shedding tears of joy, told Korean media in Doha.
The South Koreans are the only Asian side to have previously reached the semi-finals, co-hosting with Japan in 2002. On Monday, they hope to shock Brazil on their way to making history again.