Neymar leads other Brazilian team players in a goal celebration
The ‘Selecao’ have undergone a huge resurgence ever since Tite took the mantle as head coach in June 2016. The ghosts of the horrific 7-1 drubbing at the hands of Germany in the semi-final stage last time around seemed to have lingered prior to his arrival. He led Brazil to seven consecutive wins in the qualification round as they subsequently became the first nation to secure a ticket to Russia.
In 19 matches in charge, Tite’s side has tasted 15 wins, drawn three and lost just a single match. Based on the team’s form book, the South Americans are undoubtedly the hottest property heading into the tournament. On paper, Brazil faces relatively easy opponents in Group E as they tackle Switzerland, Costa Rica and Serbia. The Swiss, ranked sixth in the world, present the toughest test in the preliminary stage and should progress from this pool.
However, the hopes of a sixth world title rest once again on the availability of their star man Neymar. A damaging injury that he suffered during their quarter-final victory in the 2014 World Cup proved to be a big blow for the host nation. He was the poster boy of the competition and team leader. As a result of his absence, the team was demoralised and the ruthless Germans made light work of the side in the semis.
Neymar faces a similar predicament as he suffered an untimely injury in early March to cast doubts on whether he will recover in time for the World Cup. On the flipside, there is reprieve for the star as his club Paris Saint Germain has recently released a statement indicating that his road to recovery is steady.
“A medical examination of Neymar was conducted on Saturday by Doctor Eric Rolland [PSG] and Doctor Rodrigo Lasmar [Brazil national team] in Brazil. This examination confirmed the excellent evolution of the player’s injuries to his right foot and ankle and authorizes the removal of all protective and immobilizing material,” read the statement.
His importance could not be further stressed as he is ranked fourth highest in the all-time Brazilian top scorers list with 53 goals. After scooping the Olympic title in 2016 before their home crowd, could this be Brazil’s year? Only time will tell.