Brazil v Paraguay - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Qualifier

Pele backs Neymar to lead Brazil to World Cup glory

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Brazil legend Pele has backed Neymar to lead their country to glory in this summer’s World Cup in Russia

The Paris Saint-Germain star has previously announced that he will return in time for the tournament and is expected to lead Brazil’s challenge for their sixth World Cup trophy in the summer with the side particularly keen on wiping out the memory of their 7-1 humiliation at home soil against Germany in the 2014 World Cup.

While Neymar himself was absent from that semi-final clash against Germany, Pele is hopeful that the fully-fit star will take advantage  of “a great opportunity” to win the trophy.

“He already has a second chance because, unfortunately, what happened in Brazil – disaster,” Pele told Omnisport (via SportsKeeda).

“The last World Cup in Brazil, he got the injury, and Brazil lost. I think this is a great, great opportunity for him to recover. I think he’s a good player. Let’s see if he can help Brazil [win] this World Cup.”

The three-time World Cup winner is confident of the talent at Tite’s disposal for the upcoming tournament and is hopeful that the Brazil coach can utilise them to their full potential.

“Everybody knows Brazil have the best individual players in Europe,” said Pele.

“I think our coach, Tite, has had little time to set up the team. We have three months to set up the team. Tite is a very good coach, but he doesn’t yet have the team working together. This will be a short time for them.

“But individual players, no doubt Brazil has a team to get to the final of the World Cup.”

The former Santos star is wary of the potential surprises that may occur in the upcoming World Cup and referenced Italy as an example.

“Always we select the biggest names [as favourites], like Argentina, Italy, England, Spain,” said the 77 year-old.

“But football is a box of surprises and it’s difficult to say. This World Cup, the teams are very even. You wouldn’t have one big team.

“Then you have some surprises. Italy is out. For football, it’s not good. Then you have two or three great teams who didn’t qualify. As I mentioned, football is always a box of surprises.”

The 2018 World Cup will mark 60 years since Pele first won the World Cup for Brazil as a mere 17 year-old.

“I played four World Cups. The first one always is a little special, because I didn’t expect it, because I was 17 years old,” added Pele.

“My father was a football player too and when my father came to my house after work, he said ‘listen, you have been selected for the national team of Brazil’. I said ‘Daddy, don’t make a joke’. He said ‘no, no, no, it’s not a joke, it’s true’. I started to cry, because it was a big surprise to me.”