Home Sport Neymar set for World Cup return as Brazil eye quarter-finals

Neymar set for World Cup return as Brazil eye quarter-finals

Neymar set for World Cup return as Brazil eye quarter-finals

Doha — Neymar looks set to return to action against South Korea in the last-16 of the World Cup on Monday as Brazil step up their bid to be crowned champions for a record-extending sixth time.

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The superstar forward has been absent since hurting his ankle in Brazil's opening match in Qatar and their supporters have been sweating on his fitness ever since.

Coach Tite said the 30-year-old would be assessed in Brazil's final pre-game training session but gave a heavy hint that the Paris Saint-Germain attacker would start.

Pre-tournament favourites Brazil got their World Cup off to a flying start with a 2-0 win over Serbia and then sealed their place in the knockout phase with a 1-0 victory over Switzerland.

But they went down 1-0 to Cameroon in their final group game and also lost Arsenal forward Gabriel Jesus for the rest of the tournament, placing even more onus on Neymar to get back to full fitness.

They face a South Korea side who famously reached the semi-finals 20 years ago when the tournament was hosted between them and Japan.

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.

They will need to do an awfully lot better than a friendly in June 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 Korean defender Kim Jin-su, who was 10 at the time.

Japan veteran Yuto Nagatomo said his side want to show 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.

"The most important thing is to have courage."

Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu gives a start against Croatia to forward Ritsu Doan, rewarding him for two goals off the bench in the group phase.

Meanwhile, Kylian Mbappe was the star of the show again for France on Sunday with a superb brace which sunk Poland 3-1 and gave the world champions a mouthwatering last-eight showdown with England, easy 3-0 winners over Senegal.

PSG superstar Mbappe rifled home two blistering second-half strikes after his veteran strike partner Olivier Giroud became France's all-time leading scorer with his 52nd goal for his country just before half-time.

Mbappe called the World Cup his "obsession" after his match-winning performance, which took his tally to a tournament-leading five and also included an assist for Giroud's record-breaking opener.

"The only objective for me is to win the World Cup," said the 23-year-old.

France will face England on Saturday at the Al Bayt Stadium, where Gareth Southgate's team strolled past Senegal in a performance full of positives, not least the form of teen sensation Jude Bellingham.

Bellingham (19) set up Jordan Henderson's opener and the Borussia Dortmund midfielder was involved again when England captain Harry Kane bagged his first goal in this World Cup.

Spain will be looking to join France and England in the last eight when they face a dangerous Morocco in the last-16 on Tuesday.

Spain coach Luis Enrique set each of his players the "homework" of practising 1 000 penalties before coming to Qatar.

"I imagine that they have done their homework. If you wait until getting here to practise penalties … (it won't be enough)," he said.

The Spaniard insisted spot kicks were "not a lottery".

"It's a moment of maximum tension, a time to show your nerve," he said.

AFP

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