(Reuters) – Brazil lost Neymar to an early ankle injury but were still too strong for Asian champions Qatar on Wednesday in a comfortable 2-0 friendly win in Brasilia.
Neymar limped off in the 17th minute after he appeared to twist his ankle and was carried to the dressing room with his right ankle wrapped in ice.
He was taken to hospital for a scan, where the country’s president Jair Bolsonaro, a football fan who had attended the game, had his photo taken with the smiling Paris St-Germain striker and wished him a speedy recovery.
Coach Tite told reporters the injury did not appear too serious and that he would wait until the last possible minute to ensure that Neymar did not miss the Copa America that kicks off in just nine days.
“I only saw him at half time, his ankle was swollen,” Tite said. “It shouldn’t be a very serious injury. I am hoping that he recovers quickly.
“Neymar is a special player.”
The injury capped a horrible few days for the Paris St-Germain striker, who was stripped of the captaincy last month and was last weekend accused of rape in a case that has dominated the headlines in his homeland.
Brazil were already leading 1-0 when Neymar departed, courtesy of Richarlison’s 16th minute header, and Gabriel Jesus added the second eight minutes later from close range.
The five-times world champions were rarely troubled by a limited Qatar side, who missed a VAR-assisted penalty in injury time.
“We won and the feeling is that we won well,” said man of the match Philippe Coutinho.
“We pressured them and we did what we wanted to do.”
Once again, though, all attention was focused on Neymar, the world’s most expensive player and a polarising figure in the football world.
The controversial striker has suffered several serious injuries dating back to 2014, when a brutal knee in the back from Colombian Juan Camilo Zuniga kept him out of Brazil’s World Cup semi-final defeat by Germany.
He injured a metatarsal in his right foot that sidelined him in the months leading up to the 2018 World Cup and an injury to the same foot in January forced him to miss the business end of this season with Paris St-Germain.
“Ney is a great guy,” Coutinho added. “I hope the injury isn’t anything serious so he can get back training as soon as possible. He’s a very important player for our squad.”
Brazil face Bolivia in their Copa America opener on June 14 in Sao Paulo.
(Reporting by Andrew Downie, editing by Nick Mulvenney)