Kaka believes Brazil can "still perform very well" at the 2022 World Cup, despite the injured Neymar's absence.

Paris Saint-Germain forward Neymar limped off in the 80th minute of Brazil's 2-0 win over Serbia, having been subjected to nine fouls – more than any other player during the opening round of group games in Qatar.

The 30-year-old suffered what has been described as a lateral ligament injury to his right ankle, while he shared an update on his official Instagram account on Saturday, including photos of his heavily swollen foot.

Kaka was part of a heavily fancied Brazil side at the 2006 World Cup. But despite also boasting the likes of Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Adriano, the Selecao failed to live up to expectations and bowed out in the quarter-finals following a 1-0 defeat by France.

 

But 16 years on, the former Milan and Real Madrid midfielder is confident his nation have the credentials to go far, even with Neymar on the sidelines.

"I think now, what we can see from [Brazil], is they have a very strong group," he said. "Of course, Neymar is the cherry on the cake, but they still have a very strong group.

"In the World Cup, you need a strong group - you don't need some [individual] players, you need a very strong group. And in my opinion, this is why Brazil can still perform very well."

Since making his World Cup debut against Croatia in 2014, Neymar has featured in 11 of Brazil's 13 matches at the finals. The Selecao's only defeat with him in the side came in the 2018 quarter-final loss to Belgium.

Without him, Brazil lost both matches when he was absent eight years ago after sustaining a horrific back injury against Colombia; suffering a 7-1 semi-final humiliation against Germany, before going down 3-0 to the Netherlands in the third-place play-off.

Neymar must ignore the "envy and malice" of those that have celebrated his World Cup ankle injury and focus on coming back stronger, according to Brazil great Ronaldo.

There has been a mixed reaction to Neymar being ruled out of Brazil's game against Switzerland, and possibly the next fixture against Cameroon too, even among supporters of the Selecao.

Neymar's support for Brazilian presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro, who was defeated by Lula in elections last month, has seen some turn against the 30-year-old Paris Saint-Germain forward.

That is despite Neymar appearing to be Brazil's most likely driving force at Qatar 2022, where the team are chasing a sixth World Cup title.

Ronaldo was the star of the team that landed the fifth of those trophy successes, with his eight goals at the 2002 finals, including two in the final against Germany, propelling the team to glory.

He described Neymar as "awesome" in an open letter on Instagram, posted on Sunday.

Ronaldo added: "I am sure that most Brazilians, like me, admire and love you. Your talent, by the way, has taken you so far, so high, that there is love and admiration for you in every corner of the world.

"And it is also for this reason, for having reached where you have, for the success you have achieved, that you have to deal with so much envy and malice.

"On a level of celebrating the injury of a star like you, with a story like yours. How far have we come? What world is this? What message are we passing on to our young people? There will always be people rooting against you, but it is sad to see society on a path of trivialising intolerance, of normalising hate speech.

"It is against this verbal violence with destructive power that I write to you today: come back stronger! Smarter! Hungry for goals! The good you do on and off the field is much greater than envy towards you.

"Don't forget for a second the journey that made you a world football idol. Brazil loves you! The real fans – the ones who are in favour – need your goals, dribbles, boldness and joy! Celebrate the love that comes from most of your country. You will bounce back! And may all the hate turn into fuel."

Neymar hobbled off in the 80th minute of Brazil's 2-0 win against Serbia on Thursday, with medical staff announcing he sustained a lateral ligament injury to his right ankle.

The former Barcelona forward was fouled nine times in the Serbia game, the most suffered by any player in a single game so far at the World Cup.

Nemanja Gudelj has defended the challenge on Neymar that may have led Brazil's star man to sustain his ankle injury in the victory over Serbia.

Paris Saint-Germain forward Neymar limped off in the 80th minute of the Selecao's 2-0 triumph on Thursday, having been subjected to nine fouls – more than any other player during the opening round of group games.

Neymar, who suffered what has been described as a lateral ligament injury to his right ankle, shared an update on his official Instagram account on Saturday, including photos of his heavily swollen foot.

Gudelj received a yellow card for his 49th-minute challenge – and was substituted eight minutes later – but the midfielder insists he had no intention of injuring his opponent.

"I didn't feel like I tackled him very hard myself," Gudelj told Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf. "I tried not to hit him hard and certainly not on his ankle. I think he got injured during another action, because he played on for a while.

"I felt I had no choice because Neymar is deadly when he enters the penalty area. It was a necessary foul in my opinion, but one that eventually cost me a substitution."

Serbia suffered their eighth World Cup defeat since 2006 after going down against Brazil, with only Australia losing on more occasions at the finals during this span (nine).

Dragan Stojkovic's side can reignite their last-16 hopes with victory over Cameroon on Monday, before their Group G campaign concludes against Switzerland four days later.

"We played too carefully in the second half [against Brazil] and showed too much respect," Gudelj added. "We collapsed, so we certainly asked for a goal against a team with as much quality up front as Brazil.

"Whether we have seen the future world champions at work, I don't know. But they are definitely one of the favourites. They are an excellent team with technical and dynamic players. They're definitely going to fight for the gold.

"We have faith in ourselves and hope. Of course, you can lose a game against Brazil, because they really have an excellent team.

"We just need to win two games now. So, we're going full steam ahead, with attacking football – the way we like to play."

Richarlison believes God recognised his effort to get to the World Cup, as the Brazil forward turned his focus to Monday's clash with Switzerland.

Tottenham attacker Richarlison scored both of the Selecao's goals in their opening 2-0 win over Serbia on Thursday.

After bundling in a rebound, Richarlison scored the goal of the tournament so far to double Brazil's tally, sending an acrobatic attempt into the left-hand corner.

Richarlison has scored nine goals in his last seven appearances for Brazil in all competitions, becoming the eighth Brazilian to score a brace on his World Cup debut, and first since Neymar in 2014.

Since his debut for the national side in September 2018, Richarlison has scored more goals in all competitions for Brazil than any other player (19).

 

However, his World Cup participation was in doubt when he suffered a calf injury while in action for Spurs against his former side Everton in October.

"A few weeks ago, I was crying, not sure if it would come," Richarlison said, as quoted by the CBF's official website.

"On the day of the exam, it was one of the longest days of my life. I remember it was a day off and I went for the exam, I stayed on the stretcher waiting for the result to come out.

"The doctors went back and forth, I got nervous and time went slowly.

"So, I think it was worth all the effort in my recovery. God saw my effort, saw how much I wanted to come to the World Cup.

"That's it, now it's time to continue. We did the main thing, which was to win the first game, which is very important. Now it's time to think about the second game and rest well. It was the first, now there are six more important games."

Brazil are favourites to top Group G, but Switzerland will be no pushovers. They won their first match too, beating Cameroon 1-0 thanks to Breel Embolo's goal.

Switzerland are looking to win their opening two games at a World Cup for the first time. They last won consecutive games in the competition in 2006 against Togo and South Korea.

Brazil will be without Neymar, however, with their talisman having suffered an ankle injury against Serbia that will see him miss the meeting with Switzerland, though coach Tite was confident the Paris Saint-Germain star will feature again in Qatar.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Brazil – Vinicius Junior

Richarlison rightly took the limelight for his efforts against Serbia, but he is not the only quality attacker Brazil have at their disposal.

With Neymar out, the onus will be on Vinicius Junior – who has shown his world-class ability at Real Madrid – to step up.

Before he was taken off inside the final 15 minutes of Thursday's match, Vinicius had been involved of 50 per cent of Brazil's 16 shots, having four attempts himself and creating as many chances, including the assist for Richarlison's stunning second.

Switzerland – Breel Embolo

Embolo has scored in three of his last four matches for Switzerland, with all three of his strikes being the winner in each game.

The last Swiss player to score in consecutive World Cup games was Alexander Frei in 2006, while the only players to score in Switzerland's first two games at a World Cup are Leopold Kielholz in 1934 and Andre Abegglen in 1938.

PREDICTION

Brazil are unbeaten in their last 16 group stage games at the World Cup, and they are aiming to become the first team to go 17 without defeat in the group stages of the competition.

Opta's model backs them to do just that, giving Brazil a 62.7 per cent chance of victory.

The probability of a draw is 21 per cent, while Opta rate the likelihood of a Switzerland win at 16.3 per cent.

Tite conceded he made a mistake in not realising earlier that Neymar had sustained an ankle injury in Brazil's World Cup win over Serbia.

Neymar hobbled off in the 80th minute of the Selecao's 2-0 win on Thursday, having suffered what has been described as a lateral ligament injury to his right ankle.

The Paris Saint-Germain star shared an update on his official Instagram account on Saturday, including photos of his heavily swollen foot. 

Tite said in his post-match press conference that he was confident Neymar, as well as Danilo, who also suffered an injury against Serbia, would still be able to feature in Qatar.

However, at his pre-match media conference ahead of Brazil's second Group G game, against Switzerland, Tite said he could have handled his star man better.

"I made a mistake," he said. "I did not realise and I want to publicly acknowledge this.

"He was injured, I didn't see that he had an injury, we didn't get that information. 

"He tried to continue to play until he told us he was feeling his ankle, because right then he had the ability to try to push with the team, he participated in the goals.

"I hadn't seen he had an injury, it was 10 minutes and it was not malicious, it was accidental."

Neymar was fouled nine times against Serbia and has been the subject of heavy treatment during his previous two World Cup appearances.

Across the 2014 and 2018 World Cups combined, Neymar was fouled a leading 44 times – or once every 21 minutes, more often than any other player impeded on at least 25 occasions.

"If we want to celebrate the football we have to pay attention to the fouls, because they focus on specific players," Tite said. "This is a fact and it has to be stopped."

Tite remains, however, confident that Neymar and Danilo will both return before Brazil's campaign in Qatar is over.

"That's my opinion," he said. "Medically I am not in a position to speak but I do have the medical reports.

"I can continue to say that not only about Neymar but also about Danilo. Both situations have changed, but we do believe both will be available to play.

"We have to live day by day, deal with the possibilities. We have 26 players who have to be fit and in great shape, that's how we've been working. It shows why team spirit is important."

When it was put to him that even without Neymar Brazil remain favourites to win the World Cup, Tite replied: "Neymar is an extraordinary talent, but we are also relying on our other players as well.

"What I think about major talents is that they are players who do everything well and maybe in three opportunities they get them. Creativity is not constant.

"This talent comes up only two, three times in a match and Neymar has that ability.

"There are other players. An assist from Vinicius [Junior], or creativity when finishing a play from Richarlison, a header from Pedro, a chance for Gabriel Jesus, Raphinha… they have this ability."

Marquinhos believes the strength of Brazil's squad will allow them to stay at "this level" even as Neymar misses Monday's game against Switzerland through injury.

Brazil impressed in beating Serbia 2-0 in their World Cup opener, but they lost Neymar to an ankle injury following a brutal 80 minutes in which he was fouled nine times.

While the Paris Saint-Germain forward has not been ruled out of the remainder of the tournament, he will not feature in the Selecao's next match.

An injury to Neymar in the 2014 World Cup was followed by Brazil losing 7-1 to Germany, but Marquinhos believes this team – the tournament favourites – can cope with his absence.

"[We are] 100 per cent confident," the defender said.

"We wish we could have Neymar playing with us, we would love to have 26 players fully available, but we are ready and confident we will be able to show our group is strong, well trained, and ready for any difficulties we might face.

"Injuries happen, we must all be aware of these possibilities. We must be wise enough to see everybody has an important role to play, the importance of the ones who were not starting and came in.

"Now we have injuries, it's important that the ones who replace them are ready for the moment so we can play our best. I believe taking into account this talent, we'll be able to keep this level."

Asked how Neymar was feeling, Marquinhos added: "We took some time to digest the situation.

"Right after the game, he was sad. I think that's normal, because he dreamt so much about the World Cup and now he's suffered an injury. As a player, we all understand what he's going through.

"Today, after the tests, the training, the treatment, he's going through physio 24 hours a day, working very hard. It shows how much he wants to be fit and ready.

"We don't know how long it will take. We wish him a speedy recovery and hope he will be fit physically and emotionally very soon."

Marquinhos was also asked about Lionel Messi, another Paris Saint-Germain team-mate, who scored a vital goal for Argentina to keep their World Cup dream alive in what appears likely to be his last finals.

The Albiceleste are Brazil's bitter rivals, but Marquinhos said: "These players... Messi is not just an Argentina player, Cristiano [Ronaldo] not only a Portugal player – they are more than that.

"They are a privilege to football, for all football lovers, so everyone who wants football to evolve and loves football knows how precious they are.

"They do not belong only to their countries. All of us, we enjoy their presence and to see them playing.

"I have played with Messi, Neymar, other great players, and I benefit from their presence. We should all enjoy their presence as much as we can.

"But life goes on, and we know that other generations will come, new great players will come. We have to enjoy the great football as much as we can, keep looking for new players – that's what football is about. Other great players had important moments."

Barcelona boss Xavi has revealed he was offered a role as part of Brazil's backroom team ahead of the World Cup, but turned it down to hold out for the top job with the Blaugrana.

The former Spain international succeeded Ronald Koeman last year in charge at Camp Nou, and has helped to revive fortunes at the Catalan side since his arrival.

Though his team have slipped into the Europa League for a second season running, they remain competitive in the domestic top-flight, sitting two points ahead of rivals Real Madrid at the World Cup break.

Xavi has revealed he was approached by Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) president Rogerio Caboclo over a role with the Selecao during his time in charge at Al Sadd, but that he turned them down to hold out for Barca.

"It was an opportunity [that came] through the president of the CBF," Xavi told ESPN. 

"They [came] to Qatar, and they talked to me, [and asked if] I could be part of Tite's staff.

"But I wanted to be a coach, not an assistant. My desire was to be a coach.

"It would be a tremendous opportunity - it was [a chance] to make history, to be the first European to work in the Brazilian national team.

"But, at that moment, it did not happen. I was clear that I wanted to be coach of Barcelona, ​​which was my dream, and here I am."

However, Xavi teased he would not rule out taking up the chance if it was offered again, adding: "You never know. It would be a spectacular opportunity.

"But my intention was to take over Barcelona. You never know about the future [though]. I'm working hard, and you can't rule anything out."

Casemiro is confident Brazil can get by without Neymar for now as he backed "the star of the team" to get fit in time for the business end of the World Cup.

An ankle ligament injury forced Neymar to be substituted late on in Brazil's 2-0 win over Serbia on Thursday, as they got their Qatar 2022 campaign under way.

Richarlison scored both of Brazil's goals, and the Tottenham striker's form is one factor that gives holding midfielder Casemiro heart.

Neymar will certainly miss the game against Switzerland on Monday, and most likely the clash with Cameroon on Friday.

Whether he can recover in time to feature in the knock-out stages remains to be seen, but Brazil are optimistic.

Casemiro, quoted by Brazilian newspaper Globo, said: "If we keep talking about Neymar, we'll stay here for days, because of his importance.

"He's the star of the team, who makes the difference. But we have other similar players: Raphinha, Vini [Vinicius Junior], Richarlison. We have a wide range of options.

"Neymar is one of the best in the world, and unfortunately he will not be in the next game, but we have quality players to replace him, but of course not at his level."

Casemiro cited Lucas Paqueta of West Ham as a player who might come into the starting line-up and bring added verve in Neymar's absence.

"He is another important player," Casemiro said. "Very dynamic, modern. He plays outside, inside, false nine."

Defender Danilo is also on the Brazil sidelines for now, but Manchester United star Casemiro is backing both to pull out all the stops to be back in contention for Tite's starting side.

"Danilo and Neymar are working morning, afternoon and night, making the greatest effort in the world. They know they are important," Casemiro said.

"We have great professionals and health comes first. They will do everything to return 100 per cent as soon as possible."

Neymar described the injury that has put his World Cup on ice as "one of the hardest moments of my career" after the Brazil star was sidelined by an ankle problem.

He has been ruled out of the Selecao's second Group G game against Switzerland on Monday and could also miss the tussle with Cameroon four days later.

The Paris Saint-Germain forward suffered a heavy knock to his right ankle after a challenge from Nikola Milenkovic in Thursday's 2-0 win against Serbia, needing to be substituted in the 80th minute.

He was fouled nine times in the game, more than any other player in a World Cup matchday one group game in Qatar. The next highest number was the five sustained by Spain's Gavi against Costa Rica.

Neymar is looking to crown his fine career with a World Cup triumph, and he is confident about getting back to full fitness and playing a role later in the tournament.

"The pride and love I feel for wearing the shirt has no explanation," he wrote on Instagram. "If God gave me the opportunity to choose a country to be born, it would be BRAZIL.

"Nothing in my life was given or easy. I always had to chase my dreams and my goals. Never wishing evil on anyone but helping those in need.

"Today has become one of the hardest moments in my career... and again in a World Cup. I have an injury yes, it's annoying, it's going to hurt but I'm sure I'll have the chance to come back because I will do my best to help my country, my team-mates and myself."

He was seen in tears on the Brazil bench towards the end of the game, and it would be a grim state of affairs for the 30-year-old if his injury is not one he quickly shakes off.

Neymar added: "Wait a long time for the enemy to knock me down like this? NEVER! I am a CHILD OF THE IMPOSSIBLE GOD and my FAITH is endless."

Fitness worries at the World Cup are nothing new for Neymar. He was forced out of the 2014 finals, which Brazil hosted, when he suffered a back injury in the quarter-final win against Colombia.

Across the 2014 and 2018 World Cups combined, Neymar was fouled a leading 44 times – or once every 21 minutes, more often than any other player impeded on at least 25 occasions.

Neymar and Danilo have been ruled out of Brazil's clash with Switzerland through injury.

Both players sustained ankle problems in Thursday's 2-0 win over Serbia with Neymar later seen in tears on the bench after being caught by a strong challenge from Nikola Milenkovic.

Brazilian media were speculating the Paris Saint-Germain forward was unlikely to play again until the knockout phase but doctor Rodrigo Lasmar would only go as far as confirming both players would not be ready to take on Switzerland on Monday.

He said: "Neymar and Danilo started treatment on their injuries immediately after our match on Thursday.

"This morning they were re-evaluated, we thought it was important to have MRI scans in order to have further information regarding the recovery of both players.

"The scans showed a lateral ligament injury on Neymar's right ankle and a medial ligament injury on Danilo's left ankle.

"Both players remain in treatment. It's very important that we remain calm, tranquil and we will re-evaluate daily, in order to have the best information and make the best decisions regarding the injuries.

"We can tell you that both players will not play in the next match, but they remain in treatment and our objective is for them to recover in time for the rest of the competition."

 

The loss to injury of Neymar - Brazil's star man - should come as no surprise as he was once again targeted by the opposition at the Lusail Stadium.

He was fouled nine times by Serbia players, one shy of his own Brazil World Cup record (10 versus Switzerland in 2018), before being substituted with 10 minutes to play.

Across the 2014 and 2018 World Cups combined, Neymar was fouled a leading 44 times – or once every 21 minutes, more often than any other player impeded on at least 25 occasions.

France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris believes Richarlison has proven his qualities for Brazil, silencing his doubters with a double against Serbia.

Richarlison was the star of the show for Brazil in Doha on Thursday, as Tite's team started their World Cup campaign with a 2-0 victory at Lusail Stadium.

The Tottenham forward tucked in an opportunistic opener in the 62nd minute, before lashing an acrobatic attempt into the left-hand corner to seal the victory in style.

Brazil's win was marred by an ankle injury for Neymar, though Tite was confident the Paris Saint-Germain star would recover.

Asked about his Spurs team-mate, as well as Neymar's injury, while previewing France's Group D clash with Denmark, Lloris said: "Neymar is an icon in global football, but I'm not going to talk about him that much, I don't know how serious the injury is.

"For Richarlison, I'm delighted for him, he's not one of the better-known players in the Brazil squad and maybe not everyone expected to be in XI, but he's a great player, a great goalscorer – as he proved with the first goal but then a wonderful second goal.

"[It was] spectacular, and the best goal of the tournament so far, so that's great for him.

"We know how good a team Brazil is, they're favourites. They'll be delighted to win the first game, that's what they needed to do, to get out on the front foot."

Holders France can seal their place in the last 16 by beating Denmark on Saturday, though they go into that match having lost their last two meetings with the Danes, both of those defeats coming in this year's Nations League.

Lloris said: "It gives you an idea of the level of this Danish team, it's an excellent side and capable of beating the best.

"It's been a wake-up for us, we can't say we don't know them and we don't need extra motivation, [it's] a decisive game for qualification. If you look at the first games between Tunisia and Denmark, you can see that we have a lot of work to do. Every team is in a good place."

"They are underestimated," France coach Didier Deschamps said of Denmark, who have kept a clean sheet in three of their last five World Cup games.

"We're talking about just between June and September where they beat us twice and made life difficult. We have to make sure that's not the case. It's not a question of revenge, we know their players, they know us.

"We'll learn from those experiences but Denmark can learn too."

Tite admitted it was a tough call to pick a starting striker, but he was thrilled with the performance of Richarlison after netting both of Brazil's goals in their 2-0 victory against Serbia on Thursday.

Richarlison got the nod at number nine ahead of Arsenal's Gabriel Jesus and Flamengo's Pedro, and after a scoreless first half, he was on hand to prod home the opener in the 62nd minute after Vinicius Junior's shot was parried into his path.

That would just be the appetiser, as just 10 minutes later he produced what will be a contender for goal of the tournament as he controlled Vinicius' shin-high cross with his left foot, popping it up in the air before acrobatically spinning and volleying it home over his shoulder with his right boot.

It was his 19th senior international goal, to go with 88 club goals in his career, and after the match he said he believes it could be his best.

"It was a beautiful goal," he told reporters. "Probably one of the nicest in all of my career.

"It's the World Cup, it was a tough match… it was one of the nicest goals I have ever scored."

Tite spoke about how agonising it was to choose between the wealth of forward talent at his disposal, but also of how impressed he was by Richarlison, particularly in the second half.

"I must tell you, I had six or seven names to call [as striker], and whoever I called, we would have had a great team," Tite said. 

"So we came with Pedro, Richarlison and Gabriel. We could have had [Gabriel] Barbosa, we could have had Firmino, we could have had [Matheus] Cunha, we could have had Hulk. We have a huge number, and you have to pick someone.

"Richarlison is fantastic, we see how he controls the ball… in the second half he created a lot of volume, he adjusted, he calmed down a little bit, he was more precise in his passes.

"The first touch of the ball is crucial to make it flow, and then he started with volume, volume, volume of plays."

When asked if he was potentially disappointed with how much of a struggle things were early on, Tite made it clear he does not view Serbia as an easy fixture.

"Serbia were very, very good, very quick in the first half," he said. "But here, you have to keep that rhythm, and keep that level of marking during the entire match.

"They ended the first half very quick, very good technical skill, they were able to start the ball and put it into play quickly, and we weren't able to stop them from putting the ball into play.

"They are a team, which in the qualifiers they took out Portugal, and in a very consistent manner they played in the qualifiers with opponents at a very high level. They are a great team, and we were able to control them in both halves. We were able to produce more offensively in the second half because of our fine-tuning.

"They had very, very high quality. There was always a lot of pressure, so it did require a lot from us."

Brazil will continue their campaign in Group G on Monday when they take on Switzerland, before closing their group stage against Cameroon next Friday.

Dragan Stojkovic was made to rue Serbia's injury problems after their defeat by Brazil, believing they could have mounted a greater challenge with a fully-fit squad.

The Eagles went down 2-0 against the five-time World Cup winners in their opening match at the finals, with Richarlison's second-half double settling the Group F clash at the Lusail Iconic Stadium.

Having just returned from a foot injury, Aleksandar Mitrovic failed to register a single shot on goal, while Dusan Vlahovic appeared from the bench after recently recovering from a groin problem, and winger Filip Kostic was an unused substitute due to muscular issues.

Stojkovic believes his side felt the consequences of having three key players lacking fitness.

"One of the factors [in Serbia's performance] that was quite surprising for me was the physical factor," he said. "We simply could not recognise our team.

"In the second half, we fell physically, and we were no longer a team. Of course, Brazil knew how to take advantage of this because they have excellent players, and they punished us.

"We have three key players who are injured, it's too much for us. We are not Brazil with 200 million people, we are a very small country. They got injured just before the World Cup, so it's really unlucky.

"Tonight, we would have a different scenario if my players were healthy, but there’s no shame to lose against Brazil.

"It would be a completely different story, 100 per cent, but they are not ready and that’s the way it is."

Serbia have now lost eight of their 10 World Cup matches since 2006, with only Australia (nine) registering more defeats during that time.

Stojkovic's side will look to respond when they face Cameroon on Monday, before concluding their Group G campaign against Switzerland four days later.

Tite is confident Neymar will continue playing at the World Cup for Brazil despite the ankle injury he sustained in a bruising opening contest with Serbia.

The Paris Saint-Germain forward limped off in the latter stages of the Selecao's 2-0 victory, which was sealed by Richarlison's second-half brace, having been repeatedly fouled at Lusail Stadium.

Neymar looked close to tears as he received treatment on the bench, before being pictured with a swollen ankle as he made his way to the dressing room.

Brazil team doctor Rodrigo Lasmar confirmed the 30-year-old will undergo further assessment in the next 24 to 48 hours but Tite, who revealed Neymar continued playing a further 11 minutes after sustaining the injury, is adamant he will return.

"[Neymar] felt this pain throughout the game, but he decided to stay on the pitch to help his team," the head coach said. 

"So it's remarkable that he could bear this pain while his team was playing. He stayed 11 minutes on the pitch after his injury, until the moment he could no longer continue, and he was substituted.

"We are confident that Neymar will continue playing; he will continue playing in the World Cup.

"I didn't see Neymar was injured – the capacity he had to overcome it tricked me, I only saw it now in the video. When he actually dribbled, it caused that injury, and in that second goal you see when he controlled the ball that he felt it."

 

Richarlison scored twice as Brazil opened their World Cup campaign with a routine 2-0 win over Serbia.

The Tottenham forward broke the deadlock with a close-range finish just after the hour mark at the Lusail Iconic Stadium.

Richarlison then sealed the points with a stunning acrobatic effort 17 minutes from time as Tite's side made a winning start in Group G.

The Selecao remain unbeaten in their opening match at the finals since 1934, when they lost 3-1 to Spain in the first round.

Unbeaten in their past 15 World Cup group games, Brazil controlled the first half, but without creating many goalscoring opportunities.

Casemiro tested Vanja Milinkovic-Savic with an ambitious effort from distance, while the Serbia goalkeeper was quickly off his line to prevent Vinicius Junior latching onto Thiago Silva's precise throughball.

The Selecao carved their opponents' defence open with a neat one-two between Raphinha and Lucas Paqueta in the 35th minute, but the Barcelona forward could only shoot straight at Milinkovic-Savic.

Brazil carried a greater threat after the break. Milinkovic-Savic rescued Serbia by denying Raphinha, who had dispossessed Nemanja Gudelj outside his own penalty area, while Neymar fired wide from close range.

Alex Sandro rattled the post from 30 yards before the Samba Boys finally broke through in the 62nd minute; Richarlison prodding home the rebound after Milinkovic-Savic parried Vinicius' initial effort. 

Richarlison then gave Brazil breathing space in emphatic fashion 11 minutes later; controlling Vinicius' low, hard cross with his left foot, before swivelling and sending a magnificent acrobatic volley flying into the bottom corner with his right.

Tite's side almost increased their advantage as Casemiro hit the crossbar and Milinkovic-Savic denied Rodrygo, but the two-goal margin was enough to lift them to the Group G summit.

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