Brazil coach Tite has insisted Neymar will play again at this World Cup despite suffering a suspected sprained ankle in the 2-0 Group G win over Serbia. The forward went off with 11 minutes remaining and television footage showed him wobbling with his ankle badly swollen.
He looked close to tears as he sat on the bench during the closing minutes of the match before limping slowly back to the dressing room.
Neymar was subjected to rough tactics from an aggressive Serbian defense all night and was fouled nine times in the game as well as receiving numerous off-ball pushes.
But Tite, who otherwise enjoyed a near-perfect night as Brazil opened their campaign with a convincing win, said Neymar would be assessed in the next 24-48 hours and was confident the injury was not serious.
“Don’t worry, Neymar will play in the World Cup,” he said. “He’ll keep playing, you can be sure of that.”
Brazil’s team doctor, Rodrigo Lasmar, confirmed that Neymar had “direct trauma” to his right ankle after being beaten by Serbia’s Nikola Milenkovic. “We started immediate treatment on the bench. He is continuing with physio but now we have to wait 24-48 hours for a better assessment. He felt this pain during the game but decided to stay on the field to help his team after the injury. It’s remarkable that he did.”
Perhaps Tite’s relaxed demeanor was an attempt to deflect the injury drama that derailed Brazil’s 2014 World Cup campaign, when a fractured vertebra ended Neymar’s tournament in the quarter-finals and a hysterical crowd lifted his empty shirt as they sang. national anthem before their semi-final against Germany. Brazil lost the match 7–1.
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