Neymar’s World Cup debut four years ago started off with plenty of thrill as the then-22-year-old showed off his dazzling game on sports largest stage. However, it ended abruptly, when a defender named Juan Camilo Zúñiga kneed the forward in the back during the Colombia-Brazil quarterfinal match, fracturing one of Neymar’s vertebrae.
Despite Brazil winning the match, it lost Neymar for the rest of the tournament. Brazil was then humiliated, 7-1, by the eventual champion Germany in the semifinal. In a candid December 2017 interview with The Players’ Tribune, Neymar revealed that he couldn’t move his legs in the moments after the sustaining the frightening injury.
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Well, fast forward four years later and a healthier, more seasoned, 26-year-old Neymar is back, looking to lead Brazil to its first FIFA World Cup championship since 2002. Brazil will begin that quest in Russia on Sunday (June 17), when it faces Switzerland at 2:00 p.m. EST on Fox Sports 1.
Adding to Brazil’s title hopes is the fact that it defeated Germany, 1-0, in a friendly matchback in March and Neymar looked teriffic in scoring one of three Brazilian goals in the team’s 3-0 shutout of Austria in a World Cup warmup gamethis past Sunday (June 10).
For what it’s worth, legendary Brazilian soccer player Ronaldo not only thinks Neymar can lead this year’s team to a World Cup victory, but he believes the young superstar has the solid support from a bolstered squad behind him.
"He's ready. He's our greatest hope," Ronaldo, who won the World Cup with Brazil in 2002, told CNN Sport. "We hope that he can be our top scorer and can bring the World Cup to Brazil. We hope so. I hope so. And we are ready, I think Brazil has a very good team for [winning the championship].”
After its opening match against Switzerland, Brazil will continue Group E action by facing Costa Rica next Friday (June 22) at 8:00 a.m. EST on FS1 and Serbia the following Wednesday (June 27) at 2:00 p.m. EST on Fox. The game will stream live on Fubo TV. Will Neymar lead Brazil to a FIFA World Cup championship win? We wouldn’t bet against it at all.