Sports, Football

‘Our minds are focused on winning the title’

Published : 06 Dec 2022 07:06 PM

Neymar returned from injury to help inspire Brazil to a 4-1 victory over South Korea on Monday as the favourites cruised through to the quarter-finals of the World Cup.

The world's most expensive player had sat out his team's last two matches with a sprained ankle suffered in their opening 2-0 win over Serbia.

But he came back for this last-16 tie as Tite's team clicked into gear and delivered an ominous message to their rivals, at least before easing off in the second half. Vinicius Junior opened the scoring inside seven minutes before Neymar added another from the penalty spot to move to 76 goals for his country, leaving him just one away from equalling Pele's all-time record tally.

Richarlison's brilliant goal made it 3-0 and Lucas Paqueta added another before half-time to leave South Korea shellshocked. Paik Seung-ho pulled one back but by then Brazil were thinking about Friday's quarter-final clash with 2018 runners-up Croatia.

"The time has come to go further," Neymar told Brazilian broadcaster Globo, referring to their defeats in the semi-finals in 2014 and quarter-finals four years ago.

"We are dreaming of winning the title, that's obvious, but we have to go step by step.

"This was the fourth game. There are three to go but we are prepared. Our minds are focused on winning the title." He said he had feared the World Cup might be over for him after hobbling off in his first match in Qatar with a heavily swollen ankle.

"The night I got injured was very hard for me because I had a thousand things in my head - doubts, fears - but I had the support of my team mates and my family," he told reporters, saying he had cried that evening.

"I had to find strength where there wasn't any."

He thanked his fans for their messages of support and Brazil's medical team for their work on his recovery, adding he felt no pain in his ankle in Monday's match.

The five-time world champions had not scored four goals in a knockout game at the tournament since 1998.

Here they played at times with the joy associated with the Brazilian national team, the players coming together to celebrate each goal by showing off their dance moves and their coach even joining in.