Paris: Here’s great news for Brazil: Neymar has been impressing with his goals and attitude for Paris Saint-Germain this season.
He is also injury-free after years of being plagued by ankle, hamstring and foot injuries.
Despite Neymar sustaining a small cut on his right knee during Wednesday’s training session and requiring minor treatment, Brazil coach Tite said he is expected to start against Ghana on Friday in a potentially stunning attack featuring Raphinha, Vinicius Junior and Richarlison.
Fans cheered Neymar and posed for photos with him as he arrived in Le Havre on Wednesday midday for the match against Ghana, the teams’ penultimate friendly before the World Cup in Qatar.
Neymar’s performance at PSG has been exemplary. He’s the fittest he’s been in many years, scoring 11 goals in 11 games overall.
The 30-year-old forward has also created.
His pass to Lionel Messi in Sunday’s 1-0 win in Lyon was his seventh in the French league – level with Messi.
Will that form continue into the World Cup in Qatar, where Brazil are keen to claim a record-breaking sixth title, but their first in 20 years?
Even more so when Neymar heads into the Qatar tournament with the added psychological boost of being Brazil’s all-time top scorer.
He’s at 74, just behind three-time World Cup winner Pele’s record of 77.
He has another chance to pass Pele in a friendly against Tunisia next Tuesday at the Parc des Princes, also home to PSG. The last time Brazil played at the stadium was in 1992 when Neymar was six months old.
Neymar is a more mature player than he was at the last World Cup in 2018, when he stood out with his theatrics and kept rolling on the ground for every foul, even a small one.
Brazil’s World Cup opponents in Group G are Serbia, Switzerland and Cameroon. Neymar will be confident of improving his goal tally in those three games as he attempts to write his name alongside Pele as world champions.
Ghana, meanwhile, have a final warm-up game against Nicaragua in Spain on Tuesday. Ghana have to fear many goalscorers in Group H at the World Cup.
Portugal is led by Cristiano Ronaldo, the all-time leading scorer in international football with 117 goals, Uruguay has the successful duo Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez and South Korea has Son Heung-min.
So, at least against Neymar, Ghana’s defense will remain strong and better prepare them for what lies ahead.
Ghana’s all-time leading scorer is Asamoah Gyan at 51, but he has left a gap in attack since retiring from international football three years ago.
Andre Ayew is aiming for his 24th international goal and younger brother Jordan Ayew, who has not been on form for English Premier League side Crystal Palace this season, is aiming for his 20th goal.
Athletic Bilbao’s Inaki Williams is exhausted after his first appearance for Ghana.