Neymar left Brazil’s opening match of the World Cup with a swollen ankle and in considerable pain, triggering fears he may have suffered a significant injury.
The Brazilian playmaker was repeatedly fouled in his country’s 2-0 win over Serbia at the Lusail Stadium in Doha, before he was eventually substituted after 80 minutes.
Images taken a few minutes later showed his ankle had already ballooned up, while the 30-year-old was also pictured with his head in his hands on the bench.
Such was the seriousness of the situation that Brazil’s doctor, Rodrigo Lasmar, chose to join manager Tite at the post-match press conference to provide the media with an update on Neymar’s fitness.
“We started treatment immediately on the bench,” said Lasmar. “We need to wait 24 to 48 hours for a better assessment. Tomorrow we will have a new assessment, now we need to wait. We cannot make any premature comments.”
Tite said Neymar had played through pain for much of the second half: “Neymar felt this pain in the game but he decided to stay on the pitch to help his team. It is remarkable he could bear this pain while the team was playing.”
Tite added that he was not aware at first that Neymar had suffered an injury, and only realised when the forward controlled the ball in a “strange” way. “I saw it now, in the video,” said the Brazil manager. “It was when he dribbled that he caused the injury. With the capacity he has to overcome it, he tricked me. I was not able to see it.”
Asked if he would call up another player if Neymar is ruled out of the tournament, Tite said he was confident that Brazil’s star player would be able to play again in the coming weeks.
But those comments are unlikely to ease fears in Brazil, especially given Neymar’s painful history of World Cup injuries. He missed the 2014 semi-final due to a back problem and was not fully fit for the 2018 World Cup, either, after having foot surgery earlier in the year.
Neymar has come into this tournament following a sensational start to the season with Paris Saint-Germain, but he struggled to make a major impact against Serbia before he was replaced by Manchester United winger Antony.
Thiago Silva, the Brazil captain, said before the match with Serbia: “I think Neymar is coming into this competition in great form. His preparation this time has been different.
“In 2014 he got injured just as he was playing so well, and in 2018 he came into the tournament in a different way because he had a serious injury so hadn't played much. Now with a different preparation, without any injury and any worry, we see a better Neymar."
Brazil’s next match is against Switzerland on Monday, before they face Cameroon in the final game of the group stages on Friday December 2nd.
Tite’s side defeated Serbia thanks to two goals from Tottenham Hotspur forward Richarlison, the second of which was a stunning overhead kick.