Neymar might return to the World Cup stage on Monday when Brazil takes on South Korea in another attempt to win the tournament a record-extending sixth time.
Brazil’s fans have been concerned about superstar striker Neymar’s health ever since he sprained his ankle in his team’s opening Group G victory over Serbia last month.
Neymar will be evaluated during Brazil’s final pregame practice on Sunday, according to coach Tite, but he strongly hinted 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.
Brazil has only scored once since Neymar suffered his ankle injury, so having him back would be a huge boost. On top of that, Brazil lost Arsenal forward Gabriel Jesus for the remainder of the World Cup on Saturday.
Twenty years ago, when the tournament was split between South Korea and Japan, who are also in action on Monday against Croatia, South Korea made history by making it all the way to the semifinals.
The Koreans haven’t advanced past the group stage since 2010, and they were only able to do so in Qatar courtesy to a goal by Hwang Hee-chan in extra time of their last group match against Portugal.
They will need to perform differently than they did in the friendly match between the two teams in June, when Brazil romped to a 5-1 victory with two goals from Neymar.
“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.”
After shocking Germany and Spain en route to winning Group E, Japan veteran Yuto Nagatomo declared that his team would once again display its samurai spirit in their matchup with unbeaten Croatia.
“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.”
MBAPPE SHINES, ENGLAND CRUISE
With a brilliant brace that helped France defeat Poland 3-1 and earn a tantalising last-eight meeting with England, who easily defeated Senegal 3-0, Kylian Mbappe once again stole the show.
After his veteran striker partner Olivier Giroud became France’s all-time leading scorer with his 52nd goal for his country just before halftime, Paris Saint-Germain superstar Mbappe blasted home two blazing goals in the second half.
After his match-winning performance, which brought his tournament total to five and included an assist for Giroud’s record-breaking opener, Mbappe referred to the World Cup as his “obsession.”
“The only objective for me is to win the World Cup,” said the 23-year-old.
“That is what I am dreaming of. I didn’t come here to win the Golden Ball (for best player). That is not why I am here. I am here to win and help the French national team.”
At the Al Bayt Stadium, where England will take on France on Saturday, Gareth Southgate’s squad defeated Senegal with ease thanks in large part to adolescent star Jude Bellingham.
The 19-year-old Bellingham set up Jordan Henderson’s opening goal, and the Borussia Dortmund midfielder was again involved when England captain Kane scored his first World Cup goal and passed Gary Lineker as the nation’s all-time leading scorer in big competitions.
In the 57th minute, Bukayo Saka scored England’s third goal to seal a convincing victory and set up a crucial matchup with one of the tournament favorites.
“We’ll enjoy this one but then our focus turns to that, it’s going to be a really tough game,” said captain Kane. “They are reigning champions but it’s a good battle.”
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