Neymar will return for Brazil’s World Cup 2022 second-round clash against South Korea on Monday after recovering from an injury that kept him out of the team’s last two group-stage matches.
Brazil topped their group despite scoring just three goals in three games in Qatar, their worst showing in front of goal in the group stage of a World Cup since 1978.
With a fearsome range of attacking options, even with Gabriel Jesus having gone home injured, they have scored just once since Neymar came off with a sprained ankle in their opening 2-0 win over Serbia on November 24.
He watched the Cameroon game from just behind the Brazilian bench at the Lusail Stadium and on Saturday he was back training with his teammates, raising hopes he would be on the field against the Koreans.
“I feel good, I knew that I would now,” he wrote on Instagram on Saturday with a reference to James Brown.
“With his return the whole team will improve,” said Richarlison, 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 him coming back will make me better.”
Coach Tite confirmed Neymar’s availability for Monday’s game saying, ”
“Yes, he will be available. He will train with us this afternoon, if everything goes well, he will play.”
On paper, Brazil could surely not have asked for a kinder draw at this stage than South Korea, who qualified for the last 16 thanks to a last-gasp winner by Hwang Hee-chan against Portugal.
If they win at Doha’s Stadium 974 they will advance to a quarter-final against Japan or Croatia, with a last-four showdown against great rivals Argentina still on the cards.
Korea were the second lowest-ranked side to make the knockout stage and Paulo Bento’s side have recent experience of how chastening an experience it can be to take on Brazil.
The teams met in a friendly in Seoul in June and Brazil romped to a 5-1 victory with Neymar scoring two penalties.