‘I thought my World Cup was over’: Neymar reveals injury fear after goal | World Cup 2022

Neymar has admitted he feared his World Cup was over after spraining his ankle two weeks ago and paid tribute to the Brazil medical staff as he made a goalscoring return in their 4-1 rout of South Korea to help earn a quarter-final date with Croatia on Friday.

Goals by Vínicius Júnior, Neymar, Richarlison and Lucas Paquetá helped Brazil into a four-goal lead within 36 minutes before a second-half thunderbolt by Paik Seung-ho proved a consolation for South Korea, whose manager, Paulo Bento, announced he is quitting following their last-16 exit.

At full time, Neymar, who converted a first-half penalty to move within a goal of Pelé’s goalscoring record, carried a banner bearing the Brazil legend’s name on to the pitch. Pelé is in hospital but one of his daughters has denied the 82-year-old is under palliative care. “It’s hard to put it into words,” Neymar said. “I wish Pelé the best. He will become healthier very soon, I am sure.”

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Neymar worried about his tournament after sustaining injury against Serbia. “I was thinking of a million different things,” he said. “I was afraid of not being able to play in this World Cup again but I have the support of all of my colleagues, my family and I tried to look for strength where I could not find it. When I was reading all of the messages of encouragement, it helped my recovery.”

After scoring, Richarlison headed for the Brazil bench to celebrate with Tite, who joined his players for a Samba dance, which the 61-year-old head coach practised at the team hotel. “I try to adapt to my players,” Tite said.

“They are very young and have a love of dancing, joking and making moves. They said I had to learn how to do the moves. They’re very tight and difficult, but we kept playing around. Richarlison was there and I said: ‘What’s that dance?’ I said: ‘If you do it, then I’ll do it.’ There are various people who will say it was disrespectful. I know there’s always a camera and I didn’t want it to be misinterpreted.”

Tite made five changes during the game, including the introduction of Weverton in place of Alisson with 10 minutes to play. As a result, all 26 members of the Brazil squad, including three goalkeepers have now featured in Qatar, becoming the first team in World Cup history to use as many as 26 at a finals. “It is very difficult to substitute a goalkeeper but when we have the opportunity it is very good because it makes the whole team happy,” Tite said.

Bento said he will resign following their exit, with the Portuguese confirming he made his mind up in September to walk away after their World Cup campaign concluded. “I have just announced to the players and to the president of the confederation that I had already taken [the decision] since September,” Bento said.

“This was a decision that was set in stone and today I have just confirmed it. I have to thank them for everything they [the players] have done and they have given their very best. I’m very proud to have been their manager.”

How Socceroos wonder boy Garang Kuol made World Cup history but missed his moment | World Cup 2022

If there was ever a game for Garang Kuol, this was it – and it very nearly was his. With injury-time ticking down, a (very) young substitute was in the box, twisting into space and approaching goal. When he shot on the turn there was every chance the Socceroos might have pushed Argentina to 120 minutes. Had Emiliano Martinez possessed slightly shorter arms, anything was possible.

It took a dive and a stretch to deny Kuol, but his 25 or so minutes on the pitch at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium was a landmark moment, not just for the teenager himself but also for the World Cup. At 18 years and 79 days, Kuol became the youngest player to play in the knockout stages at a finals since Pelé in 1958.

In the lead-up to the tournament, when expectations around Australia’s campaign were non-existent, there was a sense that the country at least had a secret X-factor, a kid who could maybe do something wondrous to shock an opponent and show off to the world. A lot has happened since then, and quite a few X-factors have made themselves known. But Kuol’s almost-equaliser felt like a fine way to finish – a sort of hat-tip to the future. Liked what you saw there? You just wait ‘til 2026.

Kuol talks with his feet more than his mouth, in short, no-nonsense statements. “To be honest, I didn’t really see much,” he says of his late chance. “Just tried to turn around and shoot, but on the replay I can see the keeper rushed out. Just a learning curve. Pretty tough it didn’t go in. Good save.”

Before he was subbed on, he had told himself he would score. Arnold had told him the same thing. “Both had the same expectations,” he says. “So when I wasn’t able to score I was very disappointed. Just got to move on.”

It is the mention of Lionel Messi that lights up something on his face. “Going one on one with Messi for a bit, like a dream,” he says, before turning his attention to what this Socceroos team can become. “I think in the future you’ll see a team at the level of Brazil and Argentina. People think [players] in Europe can fly or something. All humans, all with two feet. It’s just about the passion and the heart.”

Kuol knows all about that. He is yet to start a senior football match, selected by Arnold on form off the bench for the Central Coast Mariners. That’s kind of also how he was selected by Newcastle United, a surreal leap reserved for only the most promising talent who turned heads playing for the A-League All-Stars against Barcelona in May.

When he signed with Newcastle at the end of September, Eddie Howe preached patience in the face of excitement, prefaced a loan move with a view to develop a future Premier League player. At which club that development will take place remains an unanswered question, though somewhere in Portugal is a reported possibility.

“Not too sure yet, exciting,” Kuol says, before being stopped mid-sentence by a Socceroos media handler who promptly moved him on and told journalists only to ask questions about the World Cup. Before he goes anywhere, he will return to the Mariners for a final few games, and to see the community which had watched their young star in Qatar from a distance.

Kuol, the youngest Socceroo since Harry Kewell in 1996, has been followed closely and en masse from his home town of Shepparton in northern Victoria, where his family moved as refugees after fleeing South Sudan via his birthplace, Egypt.

“He makes us so happy,” Kuol’s aunty, Agoness, said last week. “It makes us feel like we can fly, watching him play at the World Cup. And [we’re] so happy for his parents, who worked so hard for this.”