The Brazilians paid tribute to the legendary Pele, who is being treated at a hospital in Sao Paulo due to ill health, following a 4-1 win over South Korea at the World Cup.
After the final match of the round of 16 on Monday at Doha’s 974 Stadium, the players held up a large banner towards the 82-year-old, considered by many to be one of the greatest players of all age.
First-half goals from Vinicius Junior, Neymar, Richarlison and Lucas Paqueta helped the Brazilians end the game before Paik Seung-ho’s incredible second-half goal.
“It’s hard to talk about what Pele is going through at the moment, but I wish him all the best,” said Neymar, who returned from an ankle injury and played most of the game.
“I hope he gets back healthy as soon as possible and we can at least comfort him with the win,” Neymar told Globo.
Pelé’s battle with bowel cancer ended up spurring the players to try to win a record sixth world title – the first three titles in which Pelé has appeared.
“He needs a lot of strength from us and this victory is for him, so that he can get out of this situation and we can be champions because of him,” Vinicius said.
The return of Neymar has brought great strength to Brazil and they played with blood from the first minute.
His 13th-minute strike from the penalty spot helped Neymar score in Pelé’s record 77 goals for Brazil.
But he admits there was a time after his injury during Brazil’s World Cup opener against Serbia where he thought his tournament might be over. “When I got injured, I had a very difficult night.
I thought about a million different things,” Neymar said, adding that he “cry a lot”.
“I’m afraid I won’t be able to play this World Cup anymore but I have the support of all my teammates and family who give me strength.”
Richarlison expressed admiration for the team’s talisman, saying Neymar’s presence on the pitch made the game easier for everyone.
“I’m very happy with Neymar’s return. On the pitch, he coaches two or three players to create space for others,” said Richarlison, who now has three goals at the tournament.
“Neymar gives a competitive edge, he makes the difference on the pitch – he’s the driving force,” added assistant coach Cesar Sampaio.
Richarlison also praised coach Tite’s decision to rest most of the first team in the final match of the group stage, a 0-1 loss to Cameroon after they had secured a place in the knockout stages.
“We played with intensity from the first minute and that’s because we rested part of the team in the last game, so you have to acknowledge the boss,” said Richarlison.
Tite’s many changes mean he has now given action to the entire 26-man squad at the tournament, even with third-choice goalkeeper Weverton playing the final 10 minutes against South Korea.
“The game was almost over when I arrived, but no goalkeeper likes to concede a goal,” he joked.