Tite, who was sitting beside him, answered the question saying, ‘Yes’. But when he elaborated his answer, he left a little loophole. He said that the final decision will be taken after observing Neymar in a training session that evening. But it was quite evident from the rest of his press conference that he said that just as a formality.

A few more questions were asked to gain further clarity on the Neymar issue. One of those questions went something like this- it is a knockout game, the match could go into extra time. Will Neymar be able to play for 120 minutes? If the match goes into a penalty shootout, Neymar’s service will be required there. So, would it be wise to play Neymar from the start?

Tite left no ambiguity in his answer. He said, “I want to play the best possible XI from the start.”

Brazil suffered a defeat against Cameroon in their last group-stage match after not using their best XI. The defeat ended Brazil’s 17-match unbeaten streak at the World Cup group-stage, but it didn’t have any further impact. Brazil emerged as group champions.

But so what, no matter how unimportant the match is, why should Brazil lose? That too against Cameroon! The defeat has quite literally started a media storm in Brazil. The effects of which could be felt in Brazil’s press conference.

Silva repeatedly tried to explain that for the greater good, a risk was taken. And it was the right move. Even though Brazil lost, the new-look team didn’t play poorly at all. Had they not wasted so many goal-scoring opportunities, they could’ve even won the match.

Moreover, the defeat did not harm them at all. What happened at the group-stage has no bearing on the knockout stage.

But the Brazilian journalists were not having any of it! They kept firing questions over the defeat against Cameroon. Maybe, to stop such questions, Silva tried to point at a positive aspect of that game. After getting rested in that game, everyone in the Brazil XI is refreshed. South Korea, in comparison, will be much tired.

South Korea’s Portuguese coach Paulo Bento also agreed. He was worried about having to face a fierce opponent like Brazil just 72 hours after playing a nerve-wrecking game against Portugal.

Bento wasn’t at the South Korea dugout against Portugal after seeing a red card in the final moments of their previous match against Ghana. South Korea had to win against Portugal to qualify for the round of 16. They didn’t have the luxury to rest players like Brazil.

Moreover, Neymar has also returned. Bento, with a smile on his face, said, “It would be hypocritical if I said that it’s better to play against Neymar than without him.”

No coach would like to face Neymar as an opponent. So, Bento’s statement wasn’t surprising at all. Especially, as the memory of the last match between these two sides is still fresh on Bento’s mind.

Not just the World Cup, Brazil and South Korea have never faced off in any tournament. All seven previous matches between them were friendly games. Brazil won the latest of those friendlies 5-1 in this year’s June. Neymar scored twice in that game.

Having Neymar back is a huge matter for all Brazil fans, especially now more than ever. The Brazil camp is feeling stifled by injuries and illness. The defeat against Cameroon brought along more bad news for Brazil. Not just one, two bad news as Gabriel Jesus and Alex Telles are out of this World Cup with injuries.

A fresh controversy has started surrounding Jesus. Apparently, he was injured while playing for Arsenal before the World Cup and Tite, knowingly, picked an unfit Jesus in the World Cup squad.

Tite, who is usually calm and composed, got very angry about the issue. He expressed his anger even during his press conference. He said, those who are spreading such lies, are ill-wishers of the Brazil team.

In an angry tone, Tite also said how harmful such ‘fake news’ are for a team, “I want to make one thing clear, we will never put a player in danger just to win a match.”

Alongside Neymar, Danilo also got injured during the match against Serbia. He is also fit to return. The grief of losing Jesus and Telles would be somewhat lessened by the returns of Neymar and Danio.

Tite can forget everything else as he will get Neymar from the very beginning of the ‘Real World Cup’.

*This report appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Ashfaq-Ul-Alam Niloy