Brazil making it to the knockout rounds of a World Cup is no surprise. A loss to Cameroon in its last group game didn’t stop the Selecao from making it past the group stage for the ninth consecutive edition.
The Brazilian journalists, however, are not too pleased with Tite’s “lack of respect for the tournament and other teams” in fielding nine new starters in that game.
That fringe Brazil side created many chances, but the goal was missing as those auditioning for a starting role gave a masterclass in wastefulness. Brazil doctor Rodrigo Lasmar has worked the hardest in Qatar as the team continues to worry about fitness of Neymar. The good doctor, however, has indicated that Neymar might be fit to play, recovering well enough from the ankle injury that he had suffered in the first game. Tite, was more forthcoming, vehemently saying “yes” when asked if Neymar will play during his pre-match press conference.
However, the Brazilians will miss Gabriel Jesus and Alex Telles as both men are out of the tournament with knee problems. While Richarlison, already the scorer of a wonder goal, will be leading the attack, Telles’ withdrawal and the recurrent hip problem of Alex Sandro might cause a problem for Tite for the left-back position. But the philosophical Brazilian manager has always asked us to focus on all his 26 and not individual players. “Brazil has 26 great athletes. We do not call them starting players or reserves. They are all players.” he had said.
South Korea, too, has been plagued by injuries. Tottenham’s Son Heung-min miraculously recovered from a facial fracture to play in Qatar with a Zorro face mask, and Hwang Hee-chan, whose goal took Korea through, has also struggled with a hamstring strain.
Brazil was last knocked out in the Round of 16 by a Claudio Caniggia strike in 1990, and the Taegeuk Warriors’ last progress beyond this round came in the 2002 World Cup on home soil. But history has never mattered in a World Cup, more so in this one in Qatar.