DOHA ( Associated Press) — The joy of scoring one of his most important goals for Brazil quickly turned to tears after Neymar made another disappointing exit from the national team.
The loss to Croatia in the quarter-finals of the World Cup was very difficult for the Brazilian striker, and could mean the end of his career with the national team.
Neymar has yet to win a major title with Brazil and it is unclear whether he will try again at a fourth World Cup in 2026, when he is 34.
“It’s too early to come here and say this is it, but I can’t guarantee anything,” Neymar said after his 4-2 penalty shootout defeat to Croatia in the quarter-finals on Friday. “I’ll have to give myself some time to think about it. I’m not closing any doors for the national team, but I’m not saying 100 per cent that I want to make a comeback.
Before the tournament in Qatar, Neymar did not rule out that this was his last participation in the World Cup.
“Honestly, I can’t say what might happen. It’s hard to talk about it right now,” he said on Friday. “It’s time to go home and mourn.”
Not winning the title could have prompted him to return, as his only achievements with the national team so far were the 2013 Confederations Cup title and the Olympic gold medal at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.
In theory, Neymar has until March to decide on his future as the South American qualifiers for the 2026 World Cup are due to start on the same date.
Neymar looked to be taking Brazil into the semi-finals for the first time since 2014 when he scored in extra time to equal Pelé, the team’s all-time top scorer with 77 goals. But Croatia took a 1-1 lead in the final minutes and won a penalty shootout after Rodrigo and Marquinhos missed the five-time champions.
Neymar didn’t even get a chance to assist in the shootout as Brazil’s coach Tite had reserved him to shoot the fifth penalty, which never came.
“It’s hard to say whether he would have made the difference (if he had taken one of the early penalties). We can’t mark anyone. We win together and we lose together”, assured the striker.
After what happened in the tournament hosted by Brazil in 2014, reaching the semi-finals in Qatar would be redemption for Neymar. Germany.
Four years later, Brazil and Neymar lost to Belgium in the quarterfinals.
Neymar also missed the 2019 Copa America which Brazil won at home due to an injury to his right ankle.
He escaped another injury scare in Qatar after the Brazilian opener tore ligaments in his right ankle. It was unclear whether he would be able to play again, but he eventually made his return in the last 16, when he scored a goal for Brazil in a 4–1 win over South Korea.
Neymar was 18 when he made his Brazil debut in 2010 and quickly became the country’s biggest star. If he goes now, there is no clear replacement for him. Vinicius Junior and perhaps Rodrigo – his immediate deputy in Qatar – could try to fill the position.
Most fans expect Neymar to return, and so does the man whose record he set on Friday.
“Continue to inspire us,” Pele said in a message to Neymar. “I will continue to raise my fist for every goal you score, as I did every game I saw you on the field. One of our greatest duties as athletes is to inspire. Our colleagues today, the coming To inspire generations and above all, all who love our sport.”