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Neymar limps out of Brazil training

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Having drawn against Switzerland in its opener, Brazil now faces renewed concerns over the health of its megastar forward.

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Neymar’s right foot was “still not 100 percent” when he took the field for the 1-1 draw on Sunday, and the 26-year-old left practice early two days later.

He missed nearly three months after fracturing his foot for PSG under pressure by Marseille’s Dimitri Payet, but returned to score for Brazil in friendly defeats of Croatia and Austria. Neymar has 55 goals in 85 caps.

Neymar was favoring his right foot as he limped off the pitch, two days after being fouled 10 times against Switzerland. Fox reports that Neymar will be fine to practice on Wednesday, but the situation bears close observation.

Neymar was injured in the 2014 World Cup quarterfinals when Juan Zuniga kneed him in the back.

Neymar (still) not 100 percent, Brazil boss Tite says

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ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia (AP) — Neymar is still the key to Brazil’s attack, even if he hasn’t fully recovered from a right foot injury.

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The five-time champions play their opening World Cup match on Sunday against Switzerland, and Neymar is expected to take his position at the front.

“Neymar is not yet 100 percent,” Brazil coach Tite said Saturday. “But physically, he is very privileged. His sprints, his speed are very impressive. He’s not 100 percent yet … but he’s good enough to play well.”

Neymar appeared relaxed in training at the empty 45,000-seat Rostov Arena, his bleached hair held back with a band.

Tite said midfielder Fred, newly signed by Manchester United, is still recovering from an ankle injury and is the team’s only doubt.

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Six months after his record-breaking transfer to Paris Saint-Germain, Neymar fractured his right foot in February in a match against Marseille. Many in Brazil have been obsessively focused on his recovery, fretting over the national team’s promise to overcome its humiliating 7-1 loss to Germany in the 2014 semifinals.

Since Tite took over, Brazil has lost only once in 21 matches and was the first of 31 teams to qualify for the World Cup in Russia. After Switzerland, the Brazilians will take on Serbia and Costa Rica in Group E.

“I’m happy with the way we’ve played,” Tite said. “What we have to do is replicate it at the World Cup.”

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Despite Brazil’s optimism, the team is wary of Sunday’s opponents.

“They have two lines of defense and they do it very well. They also have speed in attack,” assistant coach Cleber Xavier said. “We’ve analyzed our opponents in great depth, and I think Switzerland is the strongest team we are going to face at the moment. Of course, that’s with the exception of Germany, which plays in a different league.”

Brazil experiments with a new ‘magic quartet’ at World Cup

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SOCHI, Russia (AP) Brazil will be experimenting with a new version of the “magic quartet” in Russia.

More than a decade after the five-time world champions arrived for the World Cup in Germany with its prolific foursome of Ronaldinho, Kaka, Ronaldo and Adriano, Brazil is set to use a “Fab Four” of Neymar, Willian, Philippe Coutinho and Gabriel Jesus to try to win its first title since 2002.

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It will be the first time Brazil brings a prominent attacking foursome like the one that attracted all the headlines 12 years ago.

Brazil coach Tite still hasn’t announced his starting lineup for the opener against Switzerland in Rostov-on-Don on Sunday, but all signs show that he will stick to the quartet that helped the team ease past Austria in its final warm-up match last week.

It was the first time the four players started together under Tite, and the lineup earned nothing but praise after the convincing 3-0 win.

“This formation is a very strong one,” Tite said. “It gives us a lot of creativity and aggressiveness.”

Tite had said the performance against Austria would likely determine whether he would keep the foursome for the World Cup opener. Neymar, Gabriel Jesus and Coutinho each scored for Brazil in Vienna.

Tite used the Fab Four formation in parts of the team’s practice session on Tuesday.

The quartet is considered Brazil’s ideal lineup but it hadn’t played much together until now for various reasons, including Neymar’s absence since February because of a foot injury. The game against Austria marked his first start since recovering from the injury. He had come off the bench in the second half of the team’s 2-0 win over Croatia in Liverpool.

The foursome had been together only three other times, and not for many minutes. Douglas Costa had played in Neymar’s position most of the time, and Renato Augusto had been Tite’s preferred option to compose the midfield instead of Willian.

The coach tested the quartet formation in the friendly against Russia in March, but with Costa up front instead of the injured Neymar. Brazil won that match, also 3-0.

The concept of the Brazilian magic quartet first gained prominence at the 2005 Confederations Cup, which Brazil won. It clinched the title with a 4-1 win over Argentina in the final, when Adriano scored twice and Kaka and Ronaldinho added a goal each. Then-coach Carlos Alberto Parreira used Robinho in the attack instead of Ronaldo, who didn’t play because of personal reasons.

Ronaldo was fully available by the time the World Cup arrived, and Brazil was heavily favored to win the title in Germany with the quartet back together. But after cruising past the group stage and easily eliminating Ghana in the round of 16, Brazil’s much-hyped foursome lost to France 1-0 in the quarterfinals.

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Neymar scores again as Brazil beat Austria in final tune-up

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VIENNA (AP) — Neymar scored his second goal in two matches since returning from injury on Sunday, netting with a superb second-half strike as Brazil defeated Austria 3-0 in its final warmup game ahead of the World Cup.

[ MORE: USMNT, France draw 1-1 | Player ratings | Three things ]

Set up by Willian in the 63rd minute, Neymar wrong-footed Austria defender Aleksandar Dragovic with a quick move and converted through the legs of goalkeeper Heinz Lindner for Brazil’s second goal.

Neymar celebrated by pulling his shirt back over his head and making the “V″ sign with both hands.

Gabriel Jesus gave Brazil the lead after 36 minutes with a slick finish from a tight angle. He was unmarked on the left side of the area when Marcelo’s deflected shot came his way and he curled the ball past Lindner before it hit the far post and went in. Philippe Coutinho added a third after being sent deep by Roberto Firmino 20 minutes from the end.

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A week before Brazil’s World Cup opener against Switzerland, Neymar started for the first time since recovering from fracturing his right foot which kept him out for three months. He stayed on for almost the entire game, being replaced in the 84th by Douglas Costa.

“I don’t know the limit of Neymar,” Brazil coach Tite said through an interpreter when asked if his main striker was back at full strength. “‘If (Austria) opens up in defense, go for it,’ I told him at the break. In the end I thought it might be getting too much for him so I took him off.”

A week ago, Neymar came on for the second half against Croatia in Liverpool and had an immediate impact as he opened the scoring after dribbling past two opponents to help Brazil win 2-0.

Against Austria, he had no attempt on goal in the opening hour but went down three times following rough challenges by the home side.

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The first scare came in the third minute following a late tackle from behind by midfielder Alessandro Schoepf. Similar fouls were committed by Florian Grillitsch in the 35th and Sebatian Proedl in the 53rd.

Each time, Neymar remained sitting on the pitch and holding his left ankle with a painful face, though he eventually got up and didn’t looked hampered during play.

And Neymar blossomed in the final half-hour — when Austria’s tight defense opened up — showing off his individual skills and crowning his performance with a fine finish that further cracked Austria’s resistance.

Report: Real Madrid could pursue $400M Neymar move

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In a growing transfer market, the amount spent on players continues to skyrocket, however, we could be in store for another record-breaking summer.

Neymar, who has been the subject of another giant move after the World Cup, is at the forefront of these transfer talks with Real Madrid reportedly waiting in the wings to swoop in and nab him from Paris Saint-Germain.

The Sun is reporting that Madrid, who is currently manager-less following the abrupt departure of Zinedine Zidane, could be willing to pay over $410 million for Neymar’s services following his duties with Brazil at the World Cup.

The Brazil international completed a record-breaking move to the French capital last summer from Barcelona for over $260 million.

The report also suggests that Neymar could leave PSG after September 1 for a fee of over $350 million, however, the transfer deadline closes at the conclusion of August, meaning Real would have to wait until the January transfer window to complete a move.

Neymar is coming off of a strong first season in Ligue 1, however, PSG’s dismissal from the UEFA Champions League in the Round of 16 to Real, along with an injury that Neymar suffered, has been a major cause for speculation that he will in fact exit the club following his journey to Russia next week.