Neymar, Pulisic, others who are doubtful for World Cup knockouts

Several World Cup stars are in a race to be fit for the round of 16 after taking knocks in the group stage.

Several big players have missed the 2022 World Cup through injury, including French midfield duo Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante.

Others were brought to Qatar by their managers who hoped they could recover but have yet to play. This list includes Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema and Senegal’s Sadio Mane, who has now undergone surgery.

There were also quite a few injuries in the group stage, but these updates were often drowned out by the hectic four-game-a-day schedule that football fans have been treated to in recent weeks.

Here are some of the big names who played in the tournament but are now in doubt for the knockout stage:

Neymar Brazil

Brazil’s star player was fouled nine times in the team’s 2-0 opening win over Serbia. He hobbled off with an ankle injury and did not feature in the final two group stage matches.

“I blame myself on Neymar because I didn’t see him injured and he played for 10 or 11 minutes,” Brazil manager Tite later said.

Neymar was fouled and injured in the team’s opening match against Serbia [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]

There are reports that the Paris Saint-Germaine striker is undergoing cryotherapy to get himself fit for their round of 16 against South Korea.

Neymar was unlucky at the World Cup, breaking a vertebra in his back against Colombia in the quarter-finals of the 2014 World Cup and then playing off an ankle injury in 2018.

He scored 75 goals in 122 appearances for his country, just two short of Pele’s record.

Danilo – Brazil

The Juventus right-back has kept Neymar company in the cryotherapy chambers after he also suffered an ankle injury in the same match.

The duo are expected to return in the knockout stages, with Tite announcing: “I believe both Neymar and Danilo will play again in the World Cup. I have medical reports that are on my side.”

Danilo suffered an almost identical injury to Neymar against Serbia [Amanda Perobelli/Reuters]

Cheikhou Kouyate-Senegal

The Nottingham Forest midfielder was forced out of his country’s opening game against the Netherlands with a groin injury and did not play against Qatar or Ecuador.

Kouyate brings experience to the Senegalese midfield, having made over 100 appearances for West Ham and Crystal Palace. He was a cornerstone of the Senegalese team that won the Africa Cup of Nations earlier this year. Senegal wants him to be fit enough to play against England in the last 16 on Sunday.

Cheikhou Kouyate (8)
Cheikhou Kouyate was injured in his team’s 2-0 defeat against the Netherlands [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

Christian Pulisic – USA

Pulisic collided with Iranian goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand when he met a cross from Sergino Dest in their final group stage match. The goal secured his country a place in the knockout rounds – where they will meet the Netherlands – but came at a price.

The impact caused a pelvic contusion and Pulisic was forced off the field and later received hospital treatment.

However, the Chelsea winger has told fans via social media that he will be ready for their round of 16 game.

In a Snapchat post, he wrote, “I’ll be done on Saturday, don’t worry”.

Christian Pulisic is led off the field after a goal against Iran [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]

Danielo Pereira – Portugal

The PSG centre-back will be hoping to return for his country’s last 16 encounters with Switzerland after suffering three broken ribs in training during the group stage.

Veteran Pepe replaced Pereira at centre-back alongside Manchester City’s Ruben Dias in the last two group stage matches.

Danielo Pereira
Danilo Pereira played in his team’s 3-2 victory over Ghana [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

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Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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