Monday 23 July 2018

Tite admits Neymar not fully fit for Brazil’s World Cup opener

The Paris St Germain striker suffered a foot injury four months ago.

Neymar is returning to full fitness (John Walton/PA)
Neymar is returning to full fitness (John Walton/PA)

By Press Association Sport staff

Brazil coach Tite admits Neymar is not fully fit but believes his captain is in impressive shape ahead of their World Cup opener.

Paris St Germain forward Neymar has been battling back from injury having suffered a fractured metatarsal and sprained ankle in February.

The 26-year-old – who is sporting a new bleached blonde hair cut – is expected to start on Sunday when five-time world champions Brazil face Group E rivals Switzerland in Rostov-on-Don.

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Tite has lost just one game as Brazil boss (Adam Davy/PA)

Tite feels Neymar has shown some positive signs of recovery but also issued the need for caution.

“Neymar is still not 100 per cent, but he is very privileged physically,” said Tite, in quotes reported by fifa.com.

“The level he has displayed in his sprints in high velocity has been impressive. But still he has something to gain.

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Neymar has scored 55 goals for his country (Nick Potts/PA)

“It should happen sooner rather than later, hopefully.”

Brazil’s previous two World Cup matches saw them humiliated on home soil by a 7-1 semi-final defeat to Germany in 2014 followed by a 3-0 loss to Holland in the third-placed play-off.

They were impressive in qualifying for this tournament, however, winning 12 of their 18 matches to comfortably top the South American group.

Tite’s men have been installed as favourites to lift the trophy in Moscow next month by some bookmakers.

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Brazil were thrashed by Germany four years ago (Mike Egerton/PA)

He is pleased with the progress they have made and hopes they can continue their form when it matters.

“The work we have done elevates the expectations, but also brings us peace,” he said.

“I am very happy about the level of performance we have showed so far. I hope we can now reproduce this under pressure.”

While Neymar is expected to feature against the Swiss, Manchester United-bound midfielder Fred is likely to miss out due to an injury suffered in training.

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Fred limped out of training earlier this month (John Walton/PA)

Switzerland coach Vladimir Petkovic feels his underdogs must offer an attacking threat against Brazil.

The Swiss have developed a reputation for being strong defensively and hard to beat, losing just one of their previous 22 internationals.

“We have to provoke luck, you cannot do that if you play defensively,” said Petkovic at his pre-match press conference, according to the Swiss FA’s website.

“A draw is only half the result for me and we want to get the most out of it.”

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Vladimir Petkovic has managed Switzerland since 2014 (Niall Carson/PA)

Swiss captain Stephan Lichtsteiner has urged his team-mates not to show five-time world champions Brazil too much respect.

“We should not just think about who we play against, it’s also about playing our game,” said the experienced Arsenal-bound defender.

“The team has grown mentally and now we have to show it on Sunday.”

Press Association

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