Neymar works ’24 hours a day’ to return from World Cup injury

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Neymar is working “24 hours a day” to try to recover from his ankle injury and return to playing at the World Cup, his Brazil teammate Marquinhos said Sunday.

Neymar tore ligaments in his right ankle in the team’s opening 2-0 win over Serbia on Thursday and will miss the game against Switzerland on Monday. He held out hope of recovery, but team doctors have not yet given a timeline for his return, nor have they said if he will return.

“He is sleeping in physical therapy, 24 hours a day,” Marquinhos said. “That shows how much he wants to come back to us. We don’t know when it will happen, but we hope to have him back with us as soon as possible and in good physical and mental health.”

Brazil coach Tite said he had to “force” Neymar and right-back Danilo, who is also injured, to stop their treatment on Sunday and go be with their teammates for the last training session before the game against Switzerland. Tite said that after the match against Serbia, Neymar was in physiotherapy until five or six in the morning.

Neymar had said on Instagram on Saturday that he was “sure” he “would have the chance to come back”. He posted photos of his ankle still looking very swollen.

Marquinhos said Neymar was feeling down after the injury but was more optimistic.

“I see it very well and with confidence to return,” said the defender before the game against Switzerland. “He’s very focused on coming back.”

Tite remained optimistic about the return of both Neymar and Danilo, who sprained his ankle against Serbia.

“I’m not a doctor, I’m not an expert,” Tite said. “But I still believe that Neymar and Danilo will play in the World Cup. I think we will still be able to use them.”

Tite has many options to replace Neymar, but he admitted that it is difficult to replace the talent of a player like him.

“These great talents can come in two or three times and make a difference,” Tite said. “And that’s what Neymar can do for us.”

The manager did not say who would replace Neymar or Danilo in the starting eleven on Monday. Options to replace Danilo included Dani Alves or Éder Militão.

Neymar, 30, ranks second on Brazil’s goalscoring list with 75 goals, two fewer than Pelé’s record for the national team. He has yet to win a major title with Brazil.

Neymar had to leave the 2014 World Cup in Brazil after injuring his back in the quarterfinals against Colombia. He also missed the 2019 Copa América due to a right ankle injury.

Brazil, seeking its first World Cup title in two decades, faces Cameroon in its final Group G game. The team can reach the round of 16 with a win on Monday if Cameroon does not defeat Serbia in the another party in the group.

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