The Brazilian star missed two games in the group stage due to an injury.
Five-time champions Brazil are about to enter their first knockout match of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar with one of their deadliest threats – superstar Neymar – back on the pitch.
Neymar and the Brazil team are expected to face South Korea at Stadium 974 at 10pm (7pm GMT) on Monday night after footage released by the Brazilian Football Federation showed the striker in good condition as he practiced with the ball and shot on target a day before the match.
Brazil coach Tite had previously told reporters that he would start with the striker when he was fit to play.
“I prefer to use my best player from the start,” Tite said on Sunday. “It’s the coach who has to make that decision and take on that responsibility.”
Neymar, whose $263 million transfer from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain set a record in 2017, missed the last two group stage matches against Switzerland and Cameroon after suffering ligament damage in the opening game against Serbia, which Brazil won 2-0 .
Brazil then defeated Switzerland 1–0 and lost 0–1 to Cameroon, resting most of the team’s best players during the match, which came after already qualifying for the knockout round.
Thirty-year-old Neymar is no stranger to injuries. He had been struggling for years with problems with his right foot and ankle that hindered his participation in the 2014 and 2018 World Cups.
Nevertheless, the talisman’s playing ability is likely to prove fundamental to Brazil’s success going forward as they face an increasingly competitive field in Qatar, with Argentina, England, France and the Netherlands already securing their places in the quarter-finals. have secured.
That is particularly the case after striker Gabriel Jesus and left-back Alex Telles were ruled out of the remainder of the World Cup after being injured against Cameroon.
Right-back Danilo has also been found fit to return, while left-back Alex Sandro will not play against South Korea, who made it to the Round of 16 on goal difference over Uruguay after beating Portugal 2-1 in their final group game. .
On Sunday, South Korean coach Paulo Bento played coy when asked about Neymar’s return.
The Asian team’s chances have also been boosted by good news on the injury side: a healthy Hwang Hee-chan, who scored the decisive goal against Portugal while also struggling with injuries during the group stage, is expected to start on Tuesday.
In June, Brazil defeated South Korea 5–1 in a friendly in Seoul. But Brazil captain Thiago Silva said his team would not take their opponents lightly, even with Neymar back in action.
“We can’t think it will be an easy match like in that friendly match,” he told reporters. “Now it is the World Cup and they have moved up in a very difficult group. We have a lot of respect for them.”