Brazil’s Neymar in tears on bench after right ankle injury

LUSAIL, Qatar — Neymar was pictured on the bench in Brazil in tears after leaving his team’s 2-0 win over Serbia to begin their World Cup campaign in Qatar on Thursday after suffering an injury to his right ankle .

Brazil, in search of a sixth World Cup trophy, will now have to wait between 24 and 48 hours to find out if Neymar will play at the tournament again this year, team doctors said.

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Neymar was at the center of an electric strike for Brazil as Tottenham striker Richarlison scored twice, including a stunning second, but the Selectao will now face a few nervous days awaiting more news on their star player’s condition.

The Brazilian striker suffered nine fouls from a physical Serbian side during the match and was replaced by Antony in the 80th minute after spending some time on the ground at the Lusail Iconic Stadium following a hard tackle from Nikola Milenkovic.

Neymar was treated with ice packs on the bench by team trainers and was seen limping to Brazil’s dressing room after the win.

In a statement to the media at the end of the game, Brazil team doctor Rodrigo Lasmar said it is too early to judge how serious Neymar’s injury is.

“Neymar has an injury to his right ankle, a direct trauma,” said Lasmar. “Due to the impact of the Serbian player’s knee, we immediately started treatment on the bench.

“He will continue with the physio, but now has to wait 24-48 hours for a better assessment. No MRI scan is scheduled, but we will make a new assessment tomorrow. We have to wait and cannot make any premature comments.”

“He felt this pain throughout the game, but chose to stay on the field for 11 minutes after his injury to help his team. It’s remarkable that he did this.”

When asked if he had a replacement in mind, Brazil coach Tite said he still believed Neymar would play again in Qatar.

“He stayed for the two goals we scored and even felt his ankle injury because the team needed him,” said Tite after the game. “In the two chances and the chance he got, that one [was decisive], his ability to overcome pain. He felt it with both goals.

“You can be sure that Neymar will play in the World Cup. I am absolutely sure of that. He will play in the World Cup.”

The 30-year-old was visibly upset as he walked to the substitution bench and appeared to be in tears before covering his face with his shirt.

While no definitive prognosis has yet been made on the extent of his injury, the anxious wait for a diagnosis recalls the injury that forced Neymar out of Brazil in 2014, when a fractured vertebra after a challenge by Colombia’s Camilo Zuniga ended his match at the quarter final.

There is also concern among Neymar’s teammates about his fitness, with Antony saying: “It’s a concern, isn’t it? But we don’t know what happened yet. We know how important he is, as the star that he is.”

“The most important thing for us is that he is 100% in the next game,” said Brazilian striker Richarlison, who scored both goals on Thursday.

Neymar has yet to win a major title with the national team, although he did help Brazil win the 2013 Confederations Cup and their first Olympic gold medal at the Rio de Janeiro Games in 2016.

With 75 goals for the national team, he is two times less than Pele’s scoring record.

This story uses information from The Associated Press.

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