Pele backs Neymar for World Cup redemption

By Sports Desk April 16, 2018

Former Brazil star Pele has backed Neymar to inspire the team to redemption at the 2018 World Cup finals.

The Paris Saint-Germain forward was injured in the quarter-final win over Colombia on home soil four years ago and therefore missed the 7-1 destruction at the hands of Germany in the last four.

Tite's side have been tipped to make amends at this year's tournament in Russia, though, after they breezed through qualifying to top the South American section with 12 wins and one defeat from 18 matches.

And Pele, a three-time winner of the World Cup, hopes Neymar takes advantage of "a great opportunity" for international glory.

"He already has a second chance because, unfortunately, what happened in Brazil – disaster," Pele, speaking courtesy of Hublot, told Omnisport. 

"The last World Cup in Brazil, he got the injury, and Brazil lost. I think this is a great, great opportunity for him to recover. I think he's a good player. Let's see if he can help Brazil [win] this World Cup."

Pele believes Brazil boast the best collection of individual talents in the world and now hopes Tite can fit them into a strong system in time for their first group game against Switzerland on June 17.

"Everybody knows Brazil have the best individual players in Europe," he said. "I think our coach, Tite, has had little time to set up the team. We have three months to set up the team. Tite is a very good coach, but he doesn't yet have the team working together. This will be a short time for them. 

"But individual players, no doubt Brazil has a team to get to the final of the World Cup."

The 77-year-old suspects there could be some surprises in store, though, given the shock of Italy's failure to qualify for the tournament.

"Always we select the biggest names [as favourites], like Argentina, Italy, England, Spain," he said. "But football is a box of surprises and it's difficult to say. This World Cup, the teams are very even. You wouldn't have one big team.

"Then you have some surprises. Italy is out. For football, it's not good. Then you have two or three great teams who didn't qualify. As I mentioned, football is always a box of surprises."

This year marks the 60th anniversary of Pele's first World Cup triumph and the former Santos forward still remembers the emotion of being called up to the squad as a 17-year-old.

"I played four World Cups. The first one always is a little special, because I didn't expect it, because I was 17 years old," he added. 

"My father was a football player too and when my father came to my house after work, he said 'listen, you have been selected for the national team of Brazil'. I said 'Daddy, don't make a joke'. He said 'no, no, no, it's not a joke, it's true'. I started to cry, because it was a big surprise to me."

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