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OLIVER HOLT: They looked like favourites with star man Neymar – Brazil will desperately hope he’s OK

OLIVER HOLT: They looked like favourites with star man Neymar – Brazil will desperately hope he’s OK

OLIVER HOLT: Brazil showed they are favorites for a reason against Serbia, but they will DESPERATELY hope Neymar is okay… if he can lead his country to World Cup glory, he can still rise to the pantheon of soccer greats.

  • Neymar remains the man who could make the difference in a star-studded team
  • His hopes of winning the World Cup on home soil were dashed by a knee in the back.
  • He received harsher treatment in the opening match of the World Cup against Serbia.
  • The Brazil star was hacked to death and his shirt was literally ripped off his back.
  • Neymar went out after spraining his right ankle after another hard tackle

A few months ago, Zico, one of the great heroes of Brazilian soccer and one of its great number 10s, was sitting in an office on the top floor of his academy in Recreio, on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, talking about the World Cup. from Qatar.

“We have a great opportunity,” he said. “We have a good team and the youngsters, Vini, Antony and Raphinha, are our great hope.”

He did not mention Neymar. Not until she was asked anyway. Many analysts of the Brazilian team are like that. Neymar is second only to Pelé in goals scored for his country, but the Brazilians are fighting to embrace him wholeheartedly.

Neymar remains the man who could make the difference in a star-studded Brazil team

For this reason, when I asked Zico if he was a fan of Neymar, the current number 10 of the national team, the jewel in the glittering crown of this Brazilian team that seeks to win the World Cup for the first time in 20 years, he told me: he looked at me with something between a grimace and a smile. “From his football, yes,” he said.

Zico is a charming and diplomatic man, so he left the rest unsaid. But if Brazilians have struggled to take Neymar to their hearts in the same way they worshiped Zico, Ronaldo and other modern heroes, it’s because he’s still seen as a dilettante off the pitch.

He has great talent, but the most he has won for his country is Olympic gold in Rio in 2016. This tournament in Qatar represents his best chance to correct that.

Neymar’s name still received a huge roar of approval when it was read aloud on Thursday night before Brazil’s opening 2-0 win against Serbia. In a team of all talents, a team that is favored to win the tournament, Neymar remains the man who could make the difference.

His chances of winning the World Cup on home soil were ruined eight years ago when he was brutally thrown out of the tournament. A knee to the back in Brazil’s match against Colombia broke a vertebra and forced him to miss Germany’s 7-1 humiliation in the semifinals.

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Neymar was brought down mercilessly by Serbian midfielder Nemanja Gudelj in the second half.

On Thursday night he was at the center of another injury.

He got a taste of the abuse early when Filip Mladenovic ripped his shirt from his back after a few minutes. Early in the second half, he was mercilessly brought down by Nemanja Gudelj as he ran into the Serbian defence. By the middle of the half, he was the most fouled player in the tournament thus far.

Then, late in the game, he sprained his right ankle after another strong challenge. He was substituted and when he took off his ankle boot it already looked swollen. After the match, the Brazil team doctor said he had suffered ‘trauma’ to his ankle. He said they would have to wait 24 to 48 hours before a full evaluation would be possible.

Brazil will desperately hope that he is okay. Even with Vinicius Jnr dancing down the left, Raphinha dazzling on the right and Richarlison pushing defenders in every direction up the middle, Neymar remained the star of the show on Thursday night, at least until the striker’s impressive second goal. Tottenham.

Neymar sprained his right ankle after another strong tackle in the second half

Brazil are favorites for a reason, they looked like the favorites and if they win this World Cup and are fit to play the rest of their campaign, Neymar will be their star. That is already obvious.

It was his quicksilver skills that forced the breakthrough Brazil craved just after the hour. He spun one way and then the other in the box, Vinicius finished and Richarlison nailed the rebound.

Richarlison scored it but Neymar inspired him. As age dims the light that shines from Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar still looks like a player in his prime.

He has never reached the same level as Messi, now his teammate at Paris Saint-Germain, or Ronaldo, or even his other PSG teammate, Kylian Mbappe. But if he can lead Brazil to World Cup victory here, Neymar can still rise to the pantheon of the game’s greats.

Neymar’s ankle was already swollen when he took off his boot after being substituted

Merry

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