Neymar working ’24 hours a day’ to return at World Cup

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Neymar is working “24 hours a day” to try to recover from his ankle injury and play again at the World Cup, Brazil teammate Marquinhos said Sunday.

Neymar damaged ligaments in his right ankle in the team’s 2-0 opening win over Serbia on Thursday and will miss the match against Switzerland on Monday. He remained hopeful of recovering but team doctors still haven’t given a timetable on his return — or said if he will return at all.

“He is sleeping in physiotherapy, 24 hours a day,” Marquinhos said. “That shows how much he wants to be back with us. We don’t know when it’s going to happen, but we hope we will have him with us again as soon as possible and in good health mentally and physically.”

Brazil coach Tite said he would “force” Neymar and right back Danilo — who is also injured — to stop their treatment on Sunday and go be with teammates at the last training before the match against Switzerland. Neymar stayed at the team hotel, though, while Danilo underwent treatment at the team’s training center.

Tite said Neymar was in physiotherapy until five or six in the morning after the match against Serbia.

Neymar had said Saturday on Instagram that he was “sure” he would “have a chance to return.” He posted photos of his ankle still looking very swollen.

Marquinhos said Neymar had been feeling down after the injury but was getting more upbeat.

“I see him very well and confident about returning,” the defender said ahead of the match against Switzerland. “He is very focused on coming back.”

Tite remained optimistic about the return of both Neymar and Danilo, who sprained his ankle against Serbia.

“I’m not a doctor, I’m not an expert,” Tite said. “But I still believe that Neymar and Danilo will play in the World Cup. I think we will still be able to use them.”

Tite has plenty of options to fill in for Neymar but admitted it’s hard to replace the talent of a player like him.

“These great talents can show up two or three times and make the difference,” Tite said. “And that’s what Neymar can do for us.”

The coach did not say who would replace Neymar or Danilo in the starting lineup on Monday. The options to replace Danilo included Dani Alves or Éder Militão. Forward Antony returned to training Sunday after recovering from flu symptoms.

The 30-year-old Neymar is second on Brazil’s scoring list with 75 goals, two behind Pelé’s record with the national team. He has yet to win a major title with Brazil.

Neymar had to leave the 2014 World Cup in Brazil after hurting his back in the quarterfinals against Colombia. He also missed the 2019 Copa América because of a right ankle injury.

Brazil, seeking its first World Cup title in two decades, faces Cameroon in its last Group G match. The team can reach the round of 16 with a win on Monday if Cameroon doesn’t defeat Serbia in the other group match.

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Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

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AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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