Neymar relieved to be back after fearing Qatar campaign was over
Neymar says all the hard work paid off as he recovered from injury to play a big part in Brazil's sublime 4-1 win over South Korea in Monday's World Cup last-16 tie.
The Paris Saint-Germain superstar missed Brazil's final two group games after sustaining an ankle injury late on in the opening 2-0 win over Serbia on November 24.
However, the 30-year-old was deemed fit enough to play 81 minutes of the one-sided contest with South Korea and scored the second of his side's goals at Stadium 974.
Neymar admits he feared the worst when suffering the injury 11 days ago and is glad to now be back on the field playing – and scoring – again.
"I was very scared," he said in his post-match interview. "I was doing well after a positive start to the season, so suffering an injury like the one I had was very hard.
"I spent the night crying a lot. But everything worked out in the end; the effort was worth it. All suffering is valid.
"I'd like to thank god for the strength I've been given to be back on the pitch, to be able to train and do everything I needed to be on the pitch again.
"Thanks also to the physios, my colleagues and those who have encouraged me over the last days. I'm happy to be back on the pitch and playing well."
Asked if he felt any pain prior to being replaced by Rodrygo, Neymar said: "No I didn't feel anything. I was very content with my performance, but that said we can always improve.
"I can't be 100 per cent satisfied. I've been given the man of the match award today but it's for everyone. I'm really happy with the performance of the side."
With his early penalty, Neymar became the third Brazil player to score at three editions of the World Cup (2014, 2018 and 2022) alongside Pele and Ronaldo.
Each of the forward's past six Brazil goals have come via the penalty spot and he now has 76 goals for his country – just one short of all-time scorer Pele.
Vinicius Junior had earlier given Brazil the lead, while Richarlison and Lucas Paqueta were also on target inside the opening 36 minutes.
It is just the second time in their World Cup history Brazil have scored four goals in the first half of a match, previously doing so against Mexico in 1954.
Having toiled in wins over Serbia and Switzerland, before losing to Cameroon when heavily rotating, Brazil laid down a marker with their superb showing against South Korea.
The five-time world champions, who have advanced from their past eight last-16 ties, will face Croatia following the 2018 beaten finalists' earlier penalty shoot-out win over Japan.
"We have to plan to go further," Neymar said. "We are dreaming of the title, but we will take it step by step.
"This was our fourth game today and there are three more to go. We are very prepared and focused on getting this title."