Brazil awaits Neymar to face South Korea in the round of 16

Whether Neymar is in the starting eleven, on the bench or rested for the third straight game will depend on his performance in the last training session before the round of 16 match between Brazil and South Korea on Monday.

The Brazilian star missed two group stage matches due to the right ankle injury he suffered during his debut in Qatar against Serbia. He returned to training with the group on Saturday, but it remains unclear if he will be fit to take on the South Koreans.

“He’ll practice this afternoon, and if he practices well, he’ll play,” Tite said before practice Sunday.

The coach indicated that he plans to line up Neymar from the start, instead of taking him out as a substitute, if his condition allows it.

“I prefer to put my best player from the start,” he said. “It is the coach who has to make the decision and assume that responsibility.”

Brazil struggled without the striker in playmaking, but advanced as first in the group despite losing to Cameroon on the final day of the group stage.

South Korea earned its first berth to the round of 16 in 12 years after a stunning victory over Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal in the last game.

Tests that Neymar underwent after the match with Serbia showed ligament damage in his right ankle, and it was not clear that he would be able to play again in Qatar. His ankle looked bad, very swollen, and doctors couldn’t tell if he would recover in time.

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But after undergoing intensive physiotherapy treatment, he improved and was able to return to training on Saturday. In images distributed by the Brazilian Soccer Confederation, he appears to be in good shape, exercising with the ball and shooting on goal with no apparent sign of his injury.

Midfielder Fred took up his position against Switzerland. With Brazil already classified, Tite changed the entire team against Cameroon.

Monday’s will be the first official match between the two teams, but Brazil won six of the seven friendlies they have played. The only South Korean win was in 1999.

South Korea advanced to the knockout phase thanks to a dramatic stoppage time goal by Hwang Hee-chan that sealed the 2-1 victory over Portugal, after drawing 0-0 with Uruguay and losing to Ghana.

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