Neymar’s Ankle Injury May Have Just Cooked Brazil’s World Cup Hopes
(Photo by Lionel Hahn/Getty Images)
— 28 November 2022

Neymar’s Ankle Injury May Have Just Cooked Brazil’s World Cup Hopes

— 28 November 2022

Brazil entered the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar as the betting favourite to bring it home, due in large part to the overwhelming faith in the country’s most popular player, Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior.

This was most evident when the Brazil forward line’s leader was subjected to nine fouls during last week’s match against Serbia. And in the 80th minute, a tackle by defender Nikola Milenkovic exacted what could very well be costly implications upon the Selecao’s campaign for their sixth World Cup title: Neymar injured his ankle. So… what now?

Brazil was still able to secure a 2-0 victory over Serbia to start the tournament, earning themselves three points in the rankings and securing a place atop Group H. Because of this, they’re now expected to qualify for the knockout stages, despite Neymar’s hitch in his giddyup. Although his look of consternation after being withdrawn from the game with just 10 minutes to go suggests there might be more to worry about.

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Brazil’s coach Adenor Leonardo Bacchi (commonly referred to as “Tite”) was insistent with the press during the post-match press conference that Neymar’s ankle injury wouldn’t impact the pursuit of their first World Cup in 20 years. Despite the fairly grotesque swelling, Tite went on to tell reporters that:

“You can be sure that Neymar is going to play in the Cup. I am absolutely certain of that. He is going to play!”

The team doctor Rodrigo Lasmar seems to share this optimism. Lasmar told Brazilian outlet Globo that Neymar would be out with a “lateral ligament injury on [his] right ankle” for the rest of the group stage, but could return to the squad for the knockout round. Right-back Danilo, who sustained an ankle injury of his own, has a similar timeline of 11 days of rest before a return to the field.

Considering Neymar’s history with injury, this news is pretty devastating. In the 2014 World Cup quarterfinals against Columbia, which was actually hosted by Brazil, Neymar was kneed in the back by Camilo Zuniga. This led to a lumbar vertebrae fracture that, according to Neymar, nearly cost him his entire career. He was then forced to helplessly watch Brazil get demolished 7-1 by Germany during the tournament’s semifinals.

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Back in 2020, Neymar was forced to sit out for two 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Venezuela and Uruguay, which Brazil won without him. Similarly, another ankle injury in 2021 prevented Neymar from competing in three more qualifiers.

The biggest ankle injury of his career, however, was the one that ruled him out of playing the entirety of 2019 Copa America. Perhaps more heartbreaking for Neymar was that Brazil went on to win the tournament – the only major trophy Brazil has won during his tenure – while he was sidelined.

There’s some hope that Neymar can return to full strength by the knockout stages and help Brazil go the distance. The 30-year-old is one of the players that gets fans out of their seats and another World Cup at his current level is far from a guarantee. At this point, all anyone can really do is hope for the best.