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World Cup: Neymar ruled out of group stage

Talismanic forward Neymar has undergone a scan on the ankle injury he picked in Thursday's 2-0 win against Serbia and the Brazil ace has been ruled out for at least the remainder of the group stage of the tournament.

This article was originally published on 25 November 2022

In what was an otherwise satisfactory win in their tournament opener, Neymar was withdrawn after 80 minutes following a heavy challenge from Serbian defender Nikola Milenkovic with Manchester United's Antony coming on in his place.

Richarlison scored both goals in the victory and now many people's pre-tournament favourites are hoping Neymar will recover from ankle ligament damage to return when the knockout phase of the competition begins.

Brazil's next match is on Monday when they take on fellow Group G winners Switzerland, who defeated Cameroon 1-0 on Thursday morning.

What: Brazil v Switzerland
Where: Stadium 974, Doha
When: 16.00, Monday 28th November
How to watch: ITV1
Odds: Brazil 9/20, Switzerland 6/1, Draw 7/2

Tite confidence just about pays off

Losing Neymar for anything more than two games would be a massive blow to 12/5 Brazil's chances with the 30-year-old being the real poster boy of the Selecao for a decade.

He has a phenomenal scoring record for his country, finding the back of the net 75 times in 122 caps, and he does not look close to finishing just yet.

Speaking after the game, Tite had said that he believed his star man would not be ruled out for the remainder of the tournament and admitted he did not realise Neymar had taken a blow to the ankle initially.

"We are confident Neymar will continue playing in the World Cup," he said. "I didn't see Neymar was injured - the capacity he has to overcome it tricked even me."

Neymar has had problems with ankle injuries before and missed the 2019 Copa America as a result while he was also absent for several weeks of 2021 with a similar issue.

The attacker will be hoping that bad luck does not strike once more and that he will be able to return to action after sitting out the next two games.

Stacked Brazil may have the depth to cope

If Neymar had picked up this injury in past World Cups, then Brazil could have been in real trouble, but Tite has so much ability to call upon that he should have options that will be able to cover for the high-profile absentee.

Tottenham forward Richarlison is in the form of his life at international level and the brace he bagged on Thursday took his yearly total to nine in just seven caps and he is 5/1 to be leading goalscorer in the tournament - with Neymar now out at 25/1.

Elsewhere, Vinicius Junior (50/1) of Real Madrid and Raphinha of Barcelona provide bundles of quality out wide, while Antony has had a strong start to life at Old Trafford and could come into the mix.

In terms of out-and-out centre-forwards, Gabriel Jesus is the next highest scorer in the Brazil squad to Neymar with 19 international goals.

While he has not necessarily been firing them in for his new club Arsenal, he has been playing well and the absence of Neymar could see him brought into the starting XI.

Obviously, Neymar is the figurehead of the team and when things are not going right, they will try and feed the ball to him as often as possible.

However, Tite can at least be comforted by the fact that there is a lot of talent in reserve, even if international tournament experience may not be at its highest.

Swiss hoping for no Neymar

Switzerland are Brazil's next opponent and there is no question that they will be pleased to see Neymar not available on Monday afternoon.

Murat Yakin's men secured a narrow 1-0 win against Cameroon thanks to a close-range finish from Breel Embolo and they are playing Brazil for the second straight World Cup, after they met in the group stage in Russia.

That contest finished 1-1 with Steven Zuber cancelling out an opening goal from the then-Liverpool playmaker Philippe Coutinho.

They are a team built for tournament football in that they are very tough to break down and have experience permeating through their entire squad.

There is also a real quality from the likes of Embolo and former Premier League creator Xherdan Shaqiri, so Brazil know they have a tough game in prospect.

With that in mind, Brazil may just miss the spark provided by Neymar which could open up a defence which contains Champions League standard players.

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