Neymar remains silent before Brazil take on Serbia at the World Cup

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Neymar has not spoken a word in public since arriving at the World Cup. And he didn’t have to.

That’s because his intentions are clear.

The Paris Saint-Germain star made sure of that when he posted a photo on social media with a sixth star on his pants surrounding the Brazilian logo during the flight to Qatar – hinting at a hoped-for, record-extending sixth world title alluded to the South American team.

“It’s our dream,” said Brazil striker Richarlison. “Neymar posted this photo because it’s his dream too. He wants to win this and we know how ready he is to win this. He can do whatever he wants. It’s his dream. If Neymar is happy here, we will be happy. That’s the most important.”

That’s the general feeling: Brazil Neymar’s fate depends on Neymar’s form and mental state.

The Seleção opened against Serbia on Thursday Team that failed to live up to the high expectations on football’s greatest stages.

Neymar is in fine form after a string of injuries since the 2018 World Cup – when Brazil were beaten by Belgium in the quarter-finals. His only problem so far has been arriving a day late for the pre-tournament Brazil training camp in Turin, Italy, due to a problem with his flight.

Brazil coach Tite should have all his players available for the opener. The only doubt is whether he will play with midfielder Lucas Paquetá or a more attacking team with Vinícius Júnior alongside Neymar.

Neymar has 75 career goals for Brazil and needs just two more to match Pelé’s record. And where better to do that than in front of a global audience at football’s biggest event – especially for the player Paris Saint-Germain bought from Qatar in 2017 for a world-record fee of €222 million ($230 million).

Serbia, meanwhile, are aiming to progress beyond the group stage for the first time in their fourth World Cup appearance as an independent nation. The qualification for the European Championship failed in five attempts.

Many of the Serbian players were in the team that beat Brazil to win the U20 World Cup in 2015; and a win over France in the final of the European Under-19 Championship two years earlier.

But Aleksandar Mitrović, Sergej Milinković-Savić, Nemanja Maksimović and Andrija Živković, who played in these youth teams, couldn’t repeat the same success at the seniors for Serbia.

Add in 22-year-old centre-forward Dušan Vlahović, who has scored 50 goals in all competitions with Fiorentina and Juventus over the last two seasons, and Serbia could finally have the firepower to fulfill their potential.

Whether Serbia have the defensive capability to hold Brazil’s massive array of forwards is another question.

Switzerland and Cameroon are also in Group G.

“We have a difficult group – one of the most difficult – but at the end of the day this is a challenge for all of us to show that we can (play),” said Serbia coach Dragan Stojković. “Expectations are high.”

However, not as high as Neymar.

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AP Sports Writer Tales Azzoni contributed to this report.

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

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Andrew Dampf can be reached at https://twitter.com/AndrewDampf



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