Neymar to face Croatia, first match since Feb

LONDON • As Philippe Coutinho prepares to make his Anfield return today, the comeback most football fans are anticipating is that of his Brazil team-mate Neymar.

Neymar, who scored four goals in the 2014 World Cup, has not played any form of football since February after breaking his foot.

The Paris Saint-Germain star, 26, sat out training on Thursday as a precaution. But he is expected to play some part today against fellow World Cup qualifiers Croatia.

Selecao boss Tite is unlikely to take any unnecessary risks, with their opening World Cup fixture against Switzerland looming on June 17.

Yet Neymar needs game-time, with a friendly against Austria in Vienna next Sunday serving as their only other warm-up fixture.

Brazil midfielder Fernandinho has given a positive assessment of Neymar's condition just two weeks before the start of the World Cup on June 14.

"By the movements and dribbles he has been doing in training, he has shown he is well," said the Manchester City midfielder.

"He is confident, which is important. He shows that he isn't scared of our defenders as he takes them on without fear.

"This is the first steps to getting his confidence back to 100 per cent for the World Cup.

"We also support his recovery because without a doubt he will be the difference for our team... Neymar is ready. He is fit. He's not had a good injury and it takes time to recover. But he's training well, he's feeling well."

The five-time world champions have spent the week training at Tottenham ahead of their opening World Cup warm-up fixture.

The match with Croatia gives the Liverpool crowd the opportunity to see former Reds star Coutinho.

It is uncertain what kind of reception the Barcelona playmaker will receive, with Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish requesting the "boo boys" to stay away from the match.

Brazil have always been regarded as the most watchable team in world football and intend to carry on their role as great entertainers, win, lose or draw in Russia.

"We cannot promise the title, but we can promise great matches," said captain Thiago Silva.

"By the time of the World Cup you will see great football."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 03, 2018, with the headline 'Neymar to face Croatia, first match since Feb'. Print Edition | Subscribe