Neymar’s journey to the top of the soccer world
After a summer embroiled in a saga over a transfer that never happened, Brazilian superstar Neymar finally got a chance to relax and get back on the field in Miami this week as Brazil’s national team prepared to face Colombia on Friday night at Hard Rock Stadium.
A crowd of more than 50,000 is expected for the exhibition match between two of the top-10 teams in the world. Brazil is No. 2 in the latest FIFA rankings and Colombia is No. 8. When the teams last played in Miami in 2014, a record crowd of 73,429 showed up.
It will be Neymar’s first game in three months after spraining an ankle before Brazil’s triumphant run in Copa America. He was injured on June 5 and is eager to be back in action against Colombia on Friday and against Peru in Los Angeles on Monday.
When the summer began, Neymar figured he would be heading back to Barcelona from Paris Saint Germain, two years after leaving Spain for the French club in a $245 million transfer that made headlines around the world. Neymar made it clear he wanted to leave PSG and rejoin Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, and his other former teammates in Barcelona. PSG was willing to sell him back for the right price, but the clubs failed to reach a deal. The transfer window slammed shut Monday, and Neymar is stuck at PSG.
He appears to be making the best of the situation and will use the upcoming exhibition matches to get in game shape before rejoining his team in Paris.
The Brazilian and Colombian teams arrived in Miami on Sunday and began training Monday. Bad weather related to Hurricane Dorian forced both teams to practice inside the Miami Dolphins bubble in Davie on Monday and Tuesday. They also trained at Palmer Trinity school and Barry University, where Neymar had some fun playing basketball in the Buccaneers’ gym. He also partied with singer Chris Brown at Club LIV in Miami Beach.
Brazil’s starting lineup Friday night is expected to be: goalkeeper Ederson (Manchester City); defenders Dani Alves (Sao Paulo FC), Marquinhos (Paris Saint Germain), Thiago Silva (Paris Saint Germain), Alex Sandro (Juventus); midfielders Casemiro (Real Madrid), Arthur (Barcelona), Coutinho (Bayern Munich); forwards Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain), Richarlison (Everton) and Firmino (Liverpool).
Another Brazilian player seeking to get in peak form is 19-year-old Vinicius Junior, who plays for Real Madrid and is making his debut with the national team. Vinicius Junior arrived at his Spanish club with much fanfare, but a knee injury late last season got him off track. Coach Zinedine Zidane has started the young Brazilian just once in three matches thus far this season.
A good showing in these exhibition matches would help Vinicius Junior when he gets back to Spain.
Colombia, meanwhile, will be without its two biggest stars — James Rodriguez and Radamel Falcao.
James, who plays for Real Madrid, is sidelined by an injured calf.
Falcao, who had been linked with David Beckham’s Inter Miami team for a possible transfer from Monaco, ended up with Galatasaray in Turkey. More than 25,000 fans showed up at Istanbul Airport to greet him upon his arrival on Sunday, and more than 40,000 attended his unveiling at Turk Telekom Stadium on Wednesday.
Despite the absence of James and Falcao, “Los Cafeteros” are loaded with talent and coming off an impressive Copa America, during which the team went undefeated in group play. New coach Carlos Queiroz called in newcomers Daniel Munoz and Aldair Quintana from Atletico Nacional, Leon midfielder Yairo Moreno and Eder Chaux of Patriotas. He also invited River Plate forward Rafael Santos Borre and Flamengo midfielder Orlando Berrio, both of whom have played well for their clubs this season.
The Europe-based players on the roster include: goalkeeper David Ospina (Napoli), defender Davinson Sanchez (Tottenham), defender Yerry Mina (Everton) and midfielder Juan Cuadrado (Juventus). Ospina reportedly owns a condo in downtown Miami, and is someone who may be interested in some day joining Inter Miami.
Colombia will be back at Hard Rock Stadium on Nov. 15 for a match against Peru. Fans interested in buying tickets can register in advance this week at HardRockStadium.com to be eligible for the presale. General public ticket sales begin Sept. 10 at 10 a.m. at Ticketmaster.com