Neymar limped off injured early on as Brazil played out a 1-1 friendly draw against a spirited Nigeria at the Singapore National Stadium yesterday.
The five-time world champions fell behind in the first half, but Casemiro’s equaliser early in the second period spared their blushes before Brazil wasted a string of chances to leave Southeast Asia with a victory after also being held by Senegal on Thursday. Brazil started well, with Liverpool forward Roberto Firmino firing just wide in the third minute after a smart turn near the penalty spot.
However, Brazil were dealt a major blow when Neymar limped off in the 12th minute with what appeared to be a left thigh problem — the Paris Saint-Germain striker replaced by Bayern Munich’s Philippe Coutinho to bring a premature end to his 101st international appearance.
Neymar’s return to Champions League action may now be delayed, with PSG facing Club Brugge on October 22 after the world’s most expensive player missed the first two games through suspension.
“During the match he felt a muscle injury, so I took him off as a precaution,” Brazil coach Tite said. “Neymar did not have a muscle issue before the match. I would never start a player if they had a hint of a problem like this, I would never pay that price,” Tite added of the 27-year-old, who has suffered a string of injuries since his move from Barcelona to PSG in 2017.
“My career has taught me that I would never use a player if he was not in condition to play. It would be irresponsible of me to risk a player carrying an injury.”
Neymar will be disappointed he was unable to draw level with Brazil legend Ronaldo, who sits second in the country’s all-time scoring list behind Pele, on 62 international goals this week. But Nigeria provided resolute opposition by working hard to prevent the South Americans from forging many clear openings.
Argentina hit Ecuador for six in friendly
Argentina thumped Ecuador 6-1 in a friendly in Spain yesterday, making light of the continued absence of Lionel Messi and a number of other top stars. The comfortable win came despite Messi being suspended until November for his anti-CONMEBOL outburst during the Copa America and the unavailability of River Plate and Boca Juniors players due to those teams’ Copa Libertadores semi-final clash.
Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni made six changes to the team that started Wednesday’s 2-2 draw with Germany, but his side were three goals ahead by 32 minutes in Elche thanks to a powerful header from Bayer Leverkusen striker Lucas Alario, a Jhon Espinoza own goal and Leandro Paredes’ penalty.
Angel Mena pulled one back for Ecuador three minutes into the second half, but Fiorentina defender German Pezzella made sure of the result in the 66th minute with a free header before Nicolas Dominguez crashed home a fifth from long range and Lucas Ocampos rounded off the scoring four minutes from the end.
The match took place in Spain against the backdrop of violent unrest in Ecuador, with the country’s president Lenin Moreno ordering a curfew and military control in capital city Quito.
Six people have died and nearly 2,100 have been wounded or detained according to authorities after anti-austerity protests led by Ecuador’s indigenous population.
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