Recovered from injury, Brazil’s striker will aim to get his side back on track against Costa Rica.
Saint Petersburg : A battered and bruised Neymar will aim to get Brazil’s World Cup campaign back on track here on Friday as the pre-tournament favourites seek to re-assert their title credentials with victory over Costa Rica.
Neymar was given a rough ride in Brazil’s disappointing 1-1 draw with Switzerland on Sunday, fouled 10 times during the match, the most for any player in a single World Cup game for 20 years. The world’s most expensive player then set alarm bells ringing when he hobbled out of training on Tuesday in full view of the cameras.
However, he returned to the training pitch 48 hours ahead of the clash in Saint Petersburg, raising hopes he will feature. Even before his latest setback, there were doubts over Neymar’s fitness heading into the World Cup after a three-month layoff.
The Switzerland clash was his first competitive game for nearly four months after a broken bone in his right foot ended his club season with Paris Saint-Germain in February. To the frustration of many in the French capital, Neymar returned home for much of his recovery process with the intention of being fully fit for the World Cup.
Meanwhile, Brazilian soccer 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.”
However, questions remain whether he is seriously lacking match practice. Brazil looked to their talisman time and again in the final stages in Rostov-on-Don, but he failed to find the final pass or finish to unlock a well-organised Switzerland defence.
Instead, it was Philippe Coutinho who got Brazil’s campaign off to a flying start with a wonderful long range strike to open the scoring.
In contrast to Neymar, Coutinho ended the season in sensational form for Barcelona after sealing his dream move from Liverpool.
Coutinho insists Neymar remains the key figure in Brazil’s pursuit of World Cup glory. “Neymar is one of the best players in the world. Of course having him in our side is a big plus for us,” said Coutinho. “He is so important. He is always creating the play, creating space.”
Needing a break and to relieve the pressure with a win, Brazil could hardly have picked better opposition in Los Ticos, who have only beaten Brazil once in 10 meetings. Costa Rica shocked England, Italy and Uruguay to reach the quarter-finals four years ago, but are even more in need of the points after losing 1-0 to Serbia in their opening game.
BRAZIL: Alisson, Ederson, Cassio; Marcelo, Danilo, Filipe Luis, Fagner, Marquinhos, Thiago Silva, Miranda, Pedro Geromel; Willian, Fernandinho, Paulinho, Casemiro, Philippe Coutinho, Renato Augusto, Fred; Neymar, Gabriel Jesus, Roberto Firmino, Douglas
COACH: Tite began his playing career in 1978 for Caxias. From 1984 to 1989, he played by Esportivo de Bento Gonçalves, Portuguesa and for Guarani, in which he achieved the greatest honors as a player in his career.
COSTA RICA: Keylor Navas, Patrick Pemberton, Leonel Moreira, Cristian Gamboa, Ian Smith, Ronald Matarrita, Bryan Oviedo, Oscar Duarte, Giancarlo Gonzalez, Francisco Calvo, Kendall Waston, Johnny Acosta, David
Guzman, Yeltsin Tejeda, Celso Borges,
Randall Azofeifa, Rodney Wallace, Bryan Ruiz, Daniel Colindres, Christian Bolanos,
Johan Venegas, Joel Campbell, Marco Urena.
COACH: Oscar Ramirez made his debut for Costa Rica in a February 1985 friendly match against El Salvador (4) and earned a total of 75 caps, scoring six goals.