SAMARA, Russia (AP) — Brazil captain Thiago Silva is hoping Neymar plays as well as some of his Paris Saint-Germain teammates have done in the knockout round of the World Cup.
Teenager Kylian Mbappe scored a pair of goals in France’s 4-3 victory over Argentina, sending Lionel Messi out of the tournament. Edinson Cavani then scored both goals in Uruguay’s 2-1 victory that eliminated Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Perhaps some of that PSG magic will strike on Monday when Brazil faces Mexico at Samara Arena.
“We hope tomorrow will be a great day and that Neymar is inspired as much as the other players,” said Silva, who also plays for Paris Saint-Germain.
Neymar drew concern early in the tournament because of what appeared to be a right ankle injury following the team’s 1-1 draw with Switzerland. He was fouled 10 times during the match and later was seen limping after practice before the team’s second match against Costa Rica, but the team said it was only a precaution.
The Brazilian soccer confederation has said Neymar’s ankle problem had nothing to do with the foot injury that sidelined him for about three months earlier this year. Brazil coach Tite said before the tournament started that Neymar wouldn’t likely be fully fit until the third match of the group stage. It’s now time for the knockout rounds.
“He’s resumed his top performance,” Tite said.
Just like Neymar, the entire Brazilian team seems to have progressed in the tournament. After the draw against Switzerland, Brazil defeated both Costa Rica and Serbia to finish atop its group.
“The idea is that things are going to improve. This is the fourth match. I think this team is well prepared,” Silva said Sunday. “We have to face this match with a lot of focus and a lot of determination. I think the coach has given us the tools.”
Brazil, which has won five World Cup titles, has advanced out of the group stage in the last 13 tournaments. The team has made the quarterfinals six straight times.
The last time that Brazil lost in the round of 16 was back in 1990, a 1-0 loss to Argentina in Italy.
Mexico has already made history in Russia, beating defending champion Germany 1-0 in the group opener. It was Mexico’s first victory over the Germans in a competitive match — and first in any game since 1985. The loss would later figure in Germany’s elimination in Russia.
A victory over Brazil would give Mexico its first knockout-round victory since 1986. Mexico has put its focus on the “quinto partido,” or fifth game, which means the quarterfinals.
Four years ago in Brazil, the teams played to a scoreless draw in their group. Brazil had won the three previous World Cup meetings over Mexico.
Mexico’s last victory over Brazil came in 2012 in a friendly match at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. El Tri memorably won the match 2-0 before a crowd of more than 84,000 fans.
Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio was asked about whether the team was concerned about Neymar’s reputation earlier in the tournament — deserved or not — for flopping. There was a lot of chatter on social media about Neymar’s alleged diving, and a pub back home in Brazil even offered free drinks each time he fell against Serbia.
“I will not discriminate or criticize someone,” Osorio said. “He is a great player, and tomorrow the referee will be in charge. I hope it’s a fair game.”
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