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Neymar will not be fully fit for Brazil opening World Cup match

by Michael Place ROSTOV-ON-DON Russia (Xinhua) -- Neymar will not be fully fit for Brazil’s opening World Cup match against Switzerland here on Sunday, according to Selecao coach Tite.

The Paris Saint-Germain forward has made just two appearances since recovering from a fractured fifth metatarsal in his right foot, which kept him out for more than three months.

He made a scoring return as a substitute in Brazil’s 2-0 friendly victory over Croatia on June 3 and also netted as a starter in a 3-0 defeat of Austria last Sunday.

"Neymar is not yet 100%," Tite told a news conference on Saturday.

"But he is physically very gifted. His sprints, his speed are very impressive. He’s not 100% yet but he’s good enough to play well."

Despite the long injury layoff, Neymar scored 28 goals and provided 16 assists across all competitions for Paris Saint-Germain last season following his record 222 million-euro transfer from Barcelona in August.

Neymar’s gradual return to fitness will be ominous news for Brazil’s rivals, even if the current Selecao side is not as Neymar-dependent as the 2014 version.

The hosts’ attacking options during the last World Cup in Brazil - apart from Neymar - stopped at lumbering strikers Fred and Jo.

The squad now has an embarrassment of riches, including central strikers Gabriel Jesus and Roberto Firmino as well as the versatile Philippe Coutinho.

It is a luxury that has helped underpin Brazil’s resurgence.

The five-time world champions have lost just once in 21 games since Tite replaced Dunga after the team’s group-stage elimination from the Copa America two years ago.

"I’m happy with the way we’ve played but we have to replicate it at the World Cup," a taciturn Tite said.

Despite acknowledging his team’s ability to break down opposition defences, the former Corinthians boss is expecting few scoring chances against the Swiss.

"Out of all the teams we are facing, they are the strongest in depth," Tite said.

"We know they’ll give us some difficult moments, games at the highest level demand so much of you and force you to raise your performance."

             

 

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