Soccer / World Cup

Star Neymar eager to shine in upcoming season

by Andrew McKirdy

Staff Writer

Brazil and Barcelona star Neymar insists he has almost recovered from the injury that ended his World Cup dream, and is raring to go for the new club season.

Neymar responded to the expectations of the host nation by leading Brazil to the semifinals of last month’s World Cup, scoring four goals in five games and carrying the entire team on his slight shoulders for much of the way.

But disaster struck in the 2-1 quarterfinal win over Colombia when a knee in the back from defender Juan Camilo Zuniga ended Neymar’s tournament, fracturing a vertebra in his spine and ruling him out of his team’s semifinal against Germany. Brazil went on to lose 7-1 to the Germans with Neymar watching on TV at home with his family, but the 22-year-old insisted on Thursday that he is well along the road to recovery as he arrived in Tokyo for a promotional visit.

“I’m feeling better and better all the time, and it won’t be long before I’m back to 100 percent,” he said.

“I’m looking to have a good season with Barcelona, and I’ll be working hard to get fit and get results. I’m feeling better, so I’m looking forward to playing alongside my teammates.”

Around 700 fans waited at Tokyo’s Narita airport to greet the Brazilian star, who arrived in Japan to shoot an advertisement for a bedmaker company.

Neymar joked that the customized pillow given to him by the company would come in handy after the long journey, but played down suggestions that he is ready to overtake Barcelona teammate Lionel Messi as the world’s best player.

“I don’t play to be the best in the world — I just try my best to be a good player and to do my bit for the Brazil team,” he said. “My dream was always to win titles, score goals and play in Europe, and I want to strive to keep doing that.”

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