Brazil were shell-shocked after their star player Neymar came-off injured during their 2022 FIFA World Cup opener against Serbia. Although the Selecaos cruised to a 2-0 win, thanks to a brace from Richarlison, they lost Neymar to an ankle injury. And it was more concerning for them since it is a recurring issue for the PSG player. The 31-year-old’s ankle was swollen like a golf ball as he showed after the game, with his leg wrapped up in a compression boot.

With that, Neymar has been ruled out of Brazil’s remaining two group stage games, starting from Switzerland and the penultimate one against Cameroon as well. This comes as a huge blow for Brazil coach Tite, who however has nothing to worry as such since there’s a surplus amount of talent present in his squad to recreate the Neymar magic. However, to everyone’s shock and surprise, Tite has reportedly opted to go with Manchester United’s Fred to replace Neymar.

Fred is all set to come in place of Neymar for Brazil’s remaining two group games. Credits: Twitter

Tite planning to promote Paqueta to Neymar role

Despite the likes of Real Madrid’s Rodrygo, Manchester United’s Antony and Arsenal’s Gabriel Martinelli all capable of playing in the Neymar position, Tite has planned to promote West Ham’s Lucas Paqueta to replace the No.10. Paqueta started in an unusual holding role alongside Casemiro against Serbia, where he found it difficult to adjust himself. Although he gave his best, Tite had to take him off for Fred.

Now that Neymar is out for the next two games, Tite is ready to repay Paqueta’s patience and play him in his natural position. Paqueta has flourished in that creator’s role, and has often plied his trade in that position for the national team than the likes of Antony, Rodrygo and Martinelli. Paqueta has 37 international caps as compared to the total of the trio who have a combined 24 under their belt. And with 7 goals and an assist added to the experience, the West Ham playmaker was obviously going to start ahead of the trio of attackers.

Fred too has ample experience of playing for Brazil with 29 appearances to his name, and his solid partnership with Casemiro, both in national team and now at Man United as well, is just another reason for Tite to blindly name him in the starting line-up. With that said however, Fred too has never disappointed for the national team, despite his mediocre displays for the Red Devils. He will now have to step up against the mighty Switzerland, as the last time Brazil faced them at the World Cup, in 2018, it ended in a 1-1 stalemate.

Lucas Paqueta is set to be promoted to Neymar’s position against Switzerland. Credits: Twitter

Meanwhile, providing an update on Neymar’s injury, and hinting at a tactical change, Tite in his recent presser said:

“Sometimes we see it in the movies where someone who isn’t the star steals the scene. [But] I believe both Neymar and Danilo will play again in the World Cup. I have medical reports that are on my side. Both situations have improved and we believe both will be available to play. We have to live day by day. I blame myself with Neymar because I didn’t see that he was injured and he played on for 10 or 11 minutes. The foul that hurt Neymar was not malicious. It was an accident. But if you want to celebrate football you have got to punish the rotation of fouls.”

There’s still an element of fear that Neymar could miss the entire tournament, even if Brazil make it to the knockouts and go all the way. This would be massive dent in Tite’s structure, which if not entirely, at least heavily depends on the former Barcelona player’s creativity. Neymar has now been troubled with a string of injuries in the past 18 months, with this ankle issue being the most damaging. The playmaker now faces a race against time to be fit for Brazil’s knockout campaign, which could be secured with a win over Switzerland today.