Neymar to start against Costa Rica despite ankle issue
The Brazil forward has only just returned from injury and hobbled out of training earlier this week.
Neymar will start for Brazil against Costa Rica despite suffering an ankle issue earlier this week, with coach Tite insisting he does not want the “genius” to alter his style.
The five-time World Cup winners had a scare on Tuesday when Neymar hobbled out of training, yet he was back for Wednesday’s session and will feature against Los Ticos after Tite confirmed he would name an unchanged XI.
That is despite Brazil being held to a 1-1 draw by Switzerland in their opening fixture, when the world’s most expensive footballer Neymar had an unusually quiet night.
There were rumours Tite had spoken to the 26-year-old in the wake of that draw to implore him to be more team-oriented, yet the Brazil coach shot that suggestion down in his pre-Costa Rica press conference.
“Absolutely not. The information you got is not true, it’s not true; it didn’t happen,” Tite declared.
“All the players have the responsibility of playing for the collective and also being individuals, some with some specific characteristics.
“Neymar, I’m not going to take away from him this initiative in the last third of the pitch. He’s a genius. You have my word, this is not true.
“We all have to work as a team, but we have to respect the characteristics. In the last third of the pitch, you have to create possibilities for the finish. I’m not going to take that away from anybody.”
Neymar’s fitness had been on the agenda prior to the tournament even beginning as he was out between February and June due to a fractured metatarsal.
Focus. pic.twitter.com/wrvGCQPRSB— Neymar Jr (@neymarjr) June 20, 2018
The Switzerland contest was the first time he had completed 90 minutes upon returning and Tite suggested it would take five matches for him to be up to full speed.
Yet the Brazil coach also stressed he was not risking his star man’s health by selecting him against Costa Rica.
Asked if Neymar would feature were it not a World Cup finals fixture, Tite added: “Yes, yes. It’s not a sacrifice. It’s an evolutionary process, you just speed up the steps. Yes, he would be playing. It’s not a sacrifice.
“We want to win, it’s a World Cup, but the coach is not going to risk a player’s health by being dishonest to him. That’s a price that’s too high to pay.
“Those values of health and honesty…no way, there’s no compromise.”
Brazil, who will be captained by Neymar’s PSG team-mate Thiago Silva after they were led by Marcelo against the Swiss, face a Costa Rica side looking to get up and running after their opening loss to Serbia.
The Central Americans have faced Brazil in two previous World Cups – suffering defeats in 1990 and 2002 – but Bryan Ruiz believes the 2014 quarter-finalists are now a different proposition.
“We respect Brazil very much but we have developed a lot,” Ruiz added at their press conference.
“During this World Cup we have seen many surprises, as we saw in the previous World Cup – anything is possible in football.
“We have played against Brazil twice and we’ve never won but we played well. Third time is a charm!”