The Brazil coach, Tite, has insisted that Neymar will play again in this World Cup despite suffering a suspected sprained ankle in their 2-0 Group G win over Serbia. The forward came off with 11 minutes remaining and television footage appeared to show him hobbling and his ankle badly swollen.
He looked close to tears as he sat on the bench during the closing minutes of the game, before slowly limping back to the dressing room.
Neymar had been subjected to roughhouse tactics all night from an aggressive Serbian defence, and was fouled nine times in the game as well as receiving numerous off-the-ball shoves.
But Tite, who otherwise enjoyed a near-perfect night as Brazil began their campaign with a convincing victory, said that Neymar would be assessed over 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 will keep playing, you can be sure about that.”
The Brazil team doctor, Rodrigo Lasmar, confirmed that Neymar had a “direct trauma” on his right ankle after being tackled by Serbia’s Nikola Milenkovic. “We started immediate treatment on the bench. He continues with the physio, but now we need to wait 24-48 hours for a better assessment. He felt this pain throughout the game, but chose to stay on the pitch to help his team after his injury. It’s remarkable that he did this.”
Perhaps Tite’s relaxed demeanor was an attempt to avert the sort of injury drama that derailed Brazil’s World Cup campaign in 2014, when a fractured vertebra ended Neymar’s tournament at the quarter-final stage, and a hysterical squad held up his empty shirt as they sang the national anthem before their semi-final against Germany. Brazil went on to lose the match 7-1.