Brazil lives between hope and fear: ‘We still have some time’
Brazil did qualify as group winners for the next round of the World Cup, but convincing was not what the top favourite showed in the group stage. That cannot be separated from the absence of Neymar. The big star did feature during the first group game with Serbia, but was subsequently absent against both Switzerland and Cameroon. It remains to be seen whether Neymar will be fit in time for the start of the knockout phase.
Brazil were named as the dyed-in-the-wool title favourite ahead of the World Cup. That had not least to do with Neymar’s presence. The Paris Saint-Germain striker was in absolute top form in the first half of the season and that was all the Brazilian national team seemed to need. However, in the first group match against Serbia, Neymar failed to take his team by the hand. To make matters worse, he also dropped out injured in the closing stages. As a result, he had to miss the last two group matches.
There were high hopes that Neymar would be fit in time for the match in the eighth final, but a comeback against South Korea will be a race against time. “We still have some time, so there is a chance he can play. Let’s wait and see how everything goes. Neymar is training with the ball again for the first time on Saturday (today, ed.). We have to see how his body reacts to that. Based on that, we will make a decision,” it sounded on behalf of team doctor Rodrigo Lasmar after the final group game with Cameroon.
Brazil: Status as a favourite
Brazil did not perform well during the dress rehearsal for the encounter with South Korea in the eighth final. Against Cameroon, national coach Tite opted to keep his basic squad on the bench and give the chance to the players who were on the bench in the first two group games. However, they failed to leave a good impression. As a result of a hit header by Vincent Aboubakar in the closing stages, they even lost 1-0. According to football programme Posse de Bola, Brazil has lost its favourites status. ‘A defeat always has a consequence. There is no such thing as a good defeat either. How can you play with a reserve team at the World Cup? There is no such thing.’
According to Brazilian media, a successful continuation of this World Cup depends entirely on Neymar’s return. ‘The pressure on Neymar’s return will be like an avalanche,’ echoes UOL Sport. ‘National coach Tite has created a problem for himself with that defeat. The pressure is growing, a crisis is being declared and demands are increasing. The impression has been created that without Neymar it is not possible to win the cup. We scored only three goals in the group stage. It stirs up anger and hysteria among many.’