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FIFA WORLD CUP 2022

Neymar close to return

AFP . Doha
05 Dec 2022 11:16:00 | Update: 05 Dec 2022 11:16:40
Neymar close to return
Brazil's forward #11 Raphinha (L) and Brazil's forward #10 Neymar take part in a training session at the Al Arabi SC Stadium in Doha on December 4, 2022 — AFP Photo

Neymar could make his return to the World Cup stage on Monday as Brazil continue their bid to be crowned kings for a record-extending sixth time against South Korea.

Superstar forward Neymar has been absent for Brazil since spraining his ankle in his team's opening Group G win against Serbia last month and their supporters have been sweating on his fitness ever since.

Coach Tite said Neymar would be assessed in Brazil's final pre-game training session on Sunday, but gave a heavy hint that the Paris Saint-Germain attacker would start.

"He's going to train this afternoon and if he's OK, he will play tomorrow," Tite told reporters.

His return would be a big boost as Brazil have scored just once since Neymar fell foul to his ankle injury and on Saturday lost Arsenal forward Gabriel Jesus for the rest of the World Cup.

South Korea famously reached the semi-finals 20 years ago when the tournament was shared between their country and Japan, who are also in action on Monday against Croatia.

The Koreans have not reached the knockout stages since 2010 and only got to the last 16 in Qatar thanks to an injury-time winner from Hwang Hee-chan in their final group game against Portugal.

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They will need a different performance to the one in June's friendly between the two teams, when Brazil romped to a 5-1 victory with Neymar scoring two penalties.

"We have good memories of 2002, of making it to the last four and we want to relive that," said Korea midfielder Kim Jin-su, who was 10 years old at that time.

"We've waited so long to come to this knockout stage and we all truly wanted to come this far."

Japan veteran Yuto Nagatomo said his side will again show the world their samurai spirit in their clash with unbeaten Croatia, after having already stunned Germany and Spain on their way to topping Group E.

"Before battle, the samurai would polish their weapons and refine their technique, but if they were scared in battle, all that would count for nothing," the former Inter Milan left-back said Sunday.

"The most important thing is to have courage."