London :Injured Brazil striker Neymar has targeted May 17 for a return to training and vowed to work harder than ever to be ready for this year’s World Cup in Russia.
The Paris St Germain player, who became the world’s most expensive footballer when he joined the club from Barcelona in August, had an operation on his foot after being injured in a French league game against Olympique de Marseille on Feb. 25.
He has been receiving treatment in Brazil and said he expects to be training exactly a month before the five-times champions play their World Cup opener against Switzerland on June 17.
“I get my final exam, if I’m not mistaken, on May 17 and then I’ll be free to play,” he told reporters at a news conference in Sao Paulo.
“I had an exam last week, it is all perfect, evolving well, so I hope that continues so I can get back as soon as possible…”
“I am having treatment every day, and from the moment I start training I am going to work harder than I ever worked because this is a dream that’s coming up, it’s a World Cup. I’ve waited four years for this chance, it’s close and I hope to get there in great shape.”
Neymar played for Brazil at the 2014 World Cup but missed the catastrophic 7-1 semi-final defeat by Germany through injury.
Brazil struggled in the two years immediately after their home World Cup but have since rebounded and go to Russia as joint favourites with bookmakers along with Germany.
Neymar, who joined PSG for a fee of 222 million euros ($275 million), said he was apprehensive about kicking a football again after almost three months out.
“I expect to go (to the World Cup) in a better state than before,” he said. “Of course, doubts exist and I feel them too sometimes, but that’s normal for a guy who has had the first surgery of his career. It’s very difficult for me not playing and not training.”
“I have to work even harder but I am going to have enough time to arrive in form for the World Cup, to prepare. It was horrible getting injured but I am more rested, that’s the upside. We have to see the positive side of things.”
After opening their Group E World Cup campaign against Switzerland, Brazil face Costa Rica on June 22 and then Serbia five days later.
Punjab fall short again
Ludhiana: Services overcame hosts Punjab 1-0 in the final to win the 69th National Football Championship for Santosh Trophy at Guru Nanak Stadium here today.
Bikash Thapa’s 61st-minute strike proved the difference between the two sides as Services’ recent dominance in the tournament continued. Of Services’ six titles, five have come in the last eight years — in 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2019. Since losing to Punjab in the 2008 title match in Srinagar, Services have not lost in the final.
On the other hand, this was Punjab’s third defeat in the final since winning their last title in 2008. The eight-time champions had lost 2-1 to West Bengal in 2010. In their last final appearance, in 2015, they had lost to Services 5-4 on penalties at the same venue. This is the eighth time Punjab have finished as runners-up. This was the fourth time Punjab were playing hosts. In 1970 and 1974, they had emerged champions in Jalandhar.
Being the final, the match expectedly saw a slow start, with both teams playing a little cautiously. Punjab, however, were the faster off the blocks. They dominated possession and had greater depth in their attacks. The hosts created a few opportunites but couldn’t convert, with Sunny and Vikrant Singh shooting just over the bar.
However, as the match wore on, Services gained composure and got more control over the proceedings. They started building their attacks from the flanks and almost got the breakthrough just before the end of the first half.
After the changeover, Services came out with more intent and energy. They continued pushing up the flanks and the strategy paid off. Lallawmkima PC found himself on the edge of the Punjab box. He squared the ball to Thapa, who slotted it into the bottom corner. A shirtless celebration followed, for which Thapa received a yellow card.
Punjab could have restored parity in the dying minutes but Services goalkeeper Vishnu VK made some valiant saves to ensure his side won the coveted trophy after three years.
Services skipper N Suresh Meitei was adjudged the Player of the Match. The winners received a prize of Rs 5 lakh, while Punjab pocketed Rs 3.5 lakh.
Pakistan cricketer seeks Tendulkar’s advice before WC
Lahore: Picked in Pakistan’s World Cup squad, opener Abid Ali sought advice from Sachin Tendulkar ahead of the showpiece and said he wants to hug the Indian batting great.
The 31-year old has been in prolific form in Pakistan’s domestic cricket and broke into the national one-day squad for the World Cup after scoring a century on his debut against Australia in Dubai last month.
The immensely talented Abid bats in a manner similar to one of cricket’s all-time greats.
“It’s my wish and hope that I meet Sachin Tendulkar. Definitely, I would like to hug him and I am sure that just like all great players meet youngsters I am sure that he will not turn me down.
“I am sure that if I want to get any information on cricket from Sachin, he will give a positive reply,” Abid told a group of journalists.
Abid said meeting his idol would be a memorable moment.
“It will be the best day in my life when I meet him (Tendulkar) because he was one of the best batsmen.
“West Indian Viv Richards was also a great so I want to meet all the great players and learn from them,” said Abid.
MU suffer fifth straight defeat with 0-4 loss to Everton
London: A woeful Manchester United suffered their fifth straight away defeat, in all competitions, with a 4-0 Premier League hammering at the hands of a vibrant Everton at Goodison Park.
Brazilian Richarlison fired Everton ahead in the 13th minute with an acrobatic high volley after Dominic Calvert-Lewin flicked on a long throw.
Gylfi Sigurdsson made it 2-0 with a low drive from over 25 yards out that United keeper David De Gea was slow to react to.
Lucas Digne then blasted in the third in the 56th minute after De Gea punched out a corner to the French full-back as United struggled to get even a foot in the game.
Icelandic playmaker Sigurdsson then put substitute Theo Walcott through with a clever pass through the legs of Victor Lindelof which the former Arsenal striker confidently converted.
United, eliminated from the Champions League by Barcelona on Tuesday, remain in sixth, outside the four qualification spots for next season`s campaign.
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