By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – As the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia draws near, the hopes and dreams of millions of Brazilian football (soccer) fans were given a huge boost this past weekend when injured superstar Neymar confirmed he is less than a month away from returning to action.
“I had an exam last week, it is all perfect, evolving well, so I hope that it continues so I can get back as soon as possible,” Neymar told reporters In a press conference in São Paulo. “I get my final exam if I’m not mistaken, on May 17th and then I’ll be free to play.”
To fuel further anticipation for his return, over the weekend, the superstar posted an Instagram video of himself walking without crutches, with a caption that read, “Bye bye crutches, never again.”
There had been concerns whether Neymar would be ready for the seleção‘s (Brazilian national team) World Cup Russia campaign which begins in June.
The Brazilian phenom has been sidelined since suffering a cracked fifth metatarsal in his right foot while playing for Paris Saint-Germain in a match against Marseille on February 25th (PSG won the match 3-0).
He returned to Brazil and underwent surgery in Belo Horizonte on March 3rd and has since been recovering in Mangaratiba, near Rio de Janeiro.
“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,” he exclaimed to reporters. “I’ve waited four years for this chance, it’s close and I hope to get there in great shape.”
Neymar played for the seleção in the 2014 Brazil World Cup where he scored four goals and assisted once in five matches. But, he missed the disastrous 7-1 semi-final defeat against Germany due to a fractured vertebra suffered in the quarter-finals.
The seleção appear to have righted the ship since that embarrassment four years ago. The team goes to Russia, along with the 2014 World Cup champions, Germany, as the oddsmakers’ co-favorites, an assessment that lines up with Neymar’s own prognosis for his team.
“I’m glad to be part of a team that, for me, is the strongest right now. We have the quality to win it.”
Brazil will begin their 2018 World Cup Russia campaign against Switzerland on June 17th. The seleção will battle it out in Group E along with Switzerland, Costa Rica, and Serbia.