Neymar looks set to return to action against South Korea in the last 16 of the World Cup on Monday as Brazil step up their bid to be crowned champions for a record-extending sixth time.
The superstar forward has been absent since hurting his ankle in Brazil’s opening match in Qatar and their supporters have been sweating on his fitness ever since.
Coach Tite said the 30-year-old would be assessed in Brazil’s final pre-game training session on Sunday but gave a heavy hint 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.
Pre-tournament favourites Brazil got their World Cup off to a flying start with a 2-0 win over Serbia and then sealed their place in the knockout phase with a 1-0 victory over Switzerland.
But they went down 1-0 to Cameroon in their final group game and also lost Arsenal forward Gabriel Jesus for the rest of the tournament, placing even more onus on Neymar to get back to full fitness.
They face a South Korea side who famously reached the semi-finals 20 years ago when the tournament was hosted between them and Japan, who are also in action on Monday, against Croatia.
The Koreans have not reached the knockout stages since 2010 and only got to the last 16 in Qatar thanks to an injury-time winner from Hwang Hee-chan in their final group game against Portugal.
They will need to do an awfully lot better than a friendly in June when Brazil romped to a 5-1 victory with Neymar scoring two penalties.
“We have good memories of 2002, of making it to the last four, and we want to relive that,” said Korean defender Kim Jin-su, who was 10 years old at the time.
Japan veteran Yuto Nagatomo said his side want to show their samurai spirit in their clash with unbeaten Croatia, after having already stunned Germany and Spain on their way to topping Group E.
“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.
“The most important thing is to have courage.”
Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu gives a start against Croatia to forward Ritsu Doan, rewarding him for two goals off the bench in the group phase.