Sochi: Brazil is making sure everyone knows Neymar is perfectly fit at the World Cup. A day after he limped out of training and raised further doubts about his physical condition in Russia, the Brazilian soccer federation was quick to tell the world the team’s biggest star was just fine.
Brazil had a closed practice session Wednesday, two days before its game against Costa Rica in St. Petersburg, but the federation posted photos and a video of Neymar in action in training with the rest of the squad.
“Brazil practicing and Neymar participating normally in the team’s activity,” the federation said in a Twitter post. One of the photos showed the playmaker touching the ball with his injured right ankle. “Take a look at Neymar practicing in Sochi!” read the post linking to the video which showed the playmaker training without any sign of a limp.
The images showed him exchanging passes and making challenges. In a longer version of the video sent to journalists, Neymar took free kicks. “Neymar practiced the whole time,” the federation later said on its website. “He showed confidence and participated actively during the whole session.”
The federation later released a video with Neymar “I trained well, felt comfortable,” Neymar said. “The foot is fine.” Brazilian media had already been speculating that Brazil could be hiding Neymar’s real condition after he couldn’t finish practice on Tuesday. He was visibly in pain as he walked from the field accompanied by the team’s doctor.
He had been playing keep-away with a few other players when he started showing signs of discomfort, and at one point bent down and grabbed his ankle. He tried to continue playing but a few moments later decided to leave, kicking a ball away with his left foot before limping away.
The federation said he left the session only as a precaution because he had been in pain since the team’s 1-1 draw against Switzerland on Sunday, when he was consistently fouled. It had already guaranteed after the match there was nothing wrong with Neymar even though he was limping when he talked to reporters. It had already confirmed he would be available to play against Costa Rica.
According to Brazil, Neymar’s ankle problem had nothing to do with the foot injury that sidelined him for about three months earlier this year, prompting concerns about his fitness heading into Russia. Brazil coach Tite said before the tournament started that Neymar wouldn’t likely be fully fit until the third match of the group stage. He was heavily marked and struggled against Switzerland, which fouled him 10 times in the match in Rostov-on-Don.
The draw left Brazil and Switzerland two points behind group leader Serbia, which defeated Costa Rica in its opener. Anything but victory could leave Brazil, one of the main title favorites in Russia, in a difficult position to advance from the group stage.