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Neymar says he’ll be well rested when World Cup starts

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SAO PAULO (AP) Brazilian star Neymar expects to be in better shape at the World Cup in Russia than he was before his foot injury.

The Brazilian forward said on Tuesday that while it has been hard to miss a crucial part of the season because his first major surgery, the bright side is that he will be well rested when soccer’s showcase tournament begins on June 14.

[ REPORTS: Pogba to be sold ]

“I will have enough time to get to the World Cup in good shape and prepare myself,” Neymar told journalists during an event for one of his sponsors in Sao Paulo. He arrived using crutches and asked to be seated as quickly as possible when he was on stage.

“I expect to get there better than I was,” he said. “There are doubts, of course. I feel that too. But that is normal for someone who got injured. It has been hard not to play and practice.”

Neymar also said he will have his last post-surgery medical exam on May 17, and could be available for Brazil’s training sessions that start May 21 near Rio de Janeiro.

The Paris Saint-Germain striker had surgery in March on a cracked fifth metatarsal in his right foot.

The Brazilian also said it was hard not to be with his PSG teammates to celebrate their French league title on Sunday.

“It is very bad to see my team score, win a title and I am not able to be there. But my health is above this,” he said.

Asked about players who could have a great World Cup – aside from himself, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo – Neymar did not single out any of his PSG teammates.

“Phillipe Coutinho and Gabriel Jesus will make a difference (for Brazil), I hope. Mohammed Salah doesn’t play for a famous team, but could have a good World Cup. Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne, Luis Suarez too,” he said. “I am glad to be part of a team that is the strongest, that has the skills to win.”

Chapecoense honors Colombia with beautiful new jersey

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Here’s something wonderful we missed over the thrilling club soccer weekend in Europe and Major League Soccer.

The horrible plane crash that claimed the lives of 71 people associated with Brazilian club Chapecoense was one of the most painful stories in soccer history.

Chape was en route to contend the Copa Sudamericana Final against Colombian side Atletico Nacional.

The Colombian side requested that the trophy be awarded to Chape, and the clubs have had an inspiring friendship.

Now Chape, normally sporting green shirts, has released a new jersey honoring the people of Colombia.

It’s pretty great.

Neymar says he’s a month from returning, while PSG releases update

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Neymar’s foot injury is progressing on schedule, and he should return in about a month, according to the Brazilian. Speaking to media in his home country, Neymar told reporters he would be back around early or mid-May.

“I need about a month, but it is healing well. Everything is happening normally,” Neymar said to Brazilian television station TV Globo.

[ MORE: A look at Liverpool’s Champions League path ]

PSG also released a statement earlier today that did not give a timeframe, but also claimed Neymar’s recovery is proceeding without complication and that a timetable would be laid out over the next week as they monitor his improvement. “The medical assessment by Doctor Rodrigo Lasmar confirms the excellent evolution of Neymar Jr’s injury, and authorizes the specific re-education of the right ankle and progressive full weight-bearing on the foot,” the club statement reads. “The speed of recuperation over the next ten days will allow the club to set a date for the player’s return to training.”

Manager Unai Emery added on Friday during his press conference, “Perhaps he’ll have time to play a few matches before the end of the season. We hope to have him in the team for some of our remaining matches.”

It’s understandable that PSG would take Neymar’s recovery slow and steady, as the team itself has little to play for, and the 26-year-old superstar is needed desperately by his country for the World Cup this summer in Russia. PSG has already wrapped up the Ligue 1 title – albeit unofficially – as they hold a 14-point lead with five matches remaining. A win this Sunday against second-placed Monaco would seal the deal.

PSG’s only true competitive matches remaining come via the Coupe de France, with the club scheduled to take on Caen in the semifinals. Should they win, the finals would take place on May 8th, right around Neymar’s return time.

Emery gives new, shorter timeline for Neymar return

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According to Paris Saint-Germain manager Unai Emery, star attacker Neymar will be back sooner rather than later, and potentially in time for their league clash with second-place Monaco.

“Neymar is working in Brazil,” Emery said during his pre-match press conference ahead of the Coupe de la Ligue final aginst Monaco on Saturday. “Last week I talked with him, he is fine. He will come back in two or three weeks.”

That timeline is significantly shorter than the one we received a month ago when the injury first occurred. Neymar had foot surgery on March 3 to repair a fractured metatarsal, and it was estimated he could be out up to three months, but that timetable appears to have been shattered.

The news is incredibly positive not only for PSG who is looking to finish the season strong after a disappointing end to Champions League play, but also for the Brazilian national team, who may have been sweating Neymar’s health for the World Cup. The Brazilian was never expected to miss the tournament, but his fitness during the run-up could have potentially affected his availability, or at least his form.

PSG has a league match against Monaco on April 15, with the Parisians holding a massive 17 point lead at the top of the table. The best-case scenario now appears to be a potential return for Neymar in that home match, or three days later for the French Cup semifinal against Caen. Should it take a little longer, he could return for a league visit to Bordeaux on April 21st.

Emery also stated during his presser that Angel Di Maria and Kylian Mbappe, who both picked up small injuries on international duty, will be fit for Saturday’s cup final.

A look at several of the largest international defeats in history

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Lionel Messi may not have played in Argentina’s significant defeat at the hands of Spain on Tuesday, but it got us at Pro Soccer Talk thinking about other historic results in the international game.

Again, Messi’s impact for the Albiceleste cannot be understated, but the Spanish comfortably put up six goals against the South American side, and should have had a seventh goal as well had it not been for a tame foul call on Sergio Ramos’ second-half finish.

[ MORE: Who makes England’s World Cup starting XI? ]

Here’s a look at several of the greatest (or worst) defeats in the history of international soccer.

Brazil 1-7 Germany — 2014 FIFA World Cup

Being a World Cup year, it’s hard not to bring up this historic result, which saw the eventual-World Cup winners thrash a Brazil side that was playing on home soil. Albeit with Neymar, the Brazilians were on the back foot from the opening whistle, and the Germans simply didn’t let up.

Four goals in a six-minute span capped off the performance for Jurgen Low’s side, including Toni Kroos’ quick brace.

Spain 6-1 Argentina — 2018 International Friendly

Isco’s brilliance shone through on Tuesday with a hat-trick against the South American giants, but the best goal of them all came in the 73rd minute when Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea recorded an assist on a long ball to Iago Aspas.

At one point, the television cameras focused on Messi walking away from his sky-box view of the match, and understandably so.

Australia 31-0 American Samoa — 2001 AFC World Cup qualifying

It wasn’t until 2006 that Australia snapped its drought of missing out on the World Cup, but this match currently lives on as the most significant defeat in international soccer history.

The Socceroos came, they saw, and they definitely conquered American Samoa. Unsurprisingly, this was the only meeting between the two nations in their history.

Tahiti 30-0 Cook Islands — 1971 South Pacific Games

Yes, you are reading that score line correct. In fairness to Cook Islands though, the country boasts a population of a whopping 18,000 people (roughly the equivalent of Davison County in South Dakota).

Cook Islands is currently ranked 194 in the latest FIFA World Rankings, and has never made it out of the group stage during the OFC Nations Cup.

Spain 12-1 Malta — 1984 UEFA Euro qualifying

It was one of the biggest turnarounds in history when considering what Spain needed to accomplish in order to qualify for the competition in 1984. The Spanish trailed group leaders Holland by two points in their qualifying group, and needed a victory plus an 110-goal swing in goal difference to overcome the Dutch.

Background: At the time, victories were awarded with two points instead of the modern-day three points.

In an improbable result, Spain finished level on points and aggregate goal difference with Holland, but the Spanish managed to top the Dutch based on superior number of goals scored (24).

Iran 19-0 Guam — 2002 World Cup qualifying

Iranian superstar Ali Daei still holds the record for international goals scored, but the star in this match was Charlton Athletic attacker Karim Bagheri, who netted a crazy six goals for the AFC side.

Meanwhile, the disappointing result for Guam marked the second time in less than a year that the small island nation suffered a defeat of 19-0 (against China PR).