Will Neymar play for Brazil at the 2026 World Cup?
The favourites are out. Brazil had come into the Qatar 2022 World Cup as many people’s tips to lift the trophy on 18 December and had done little to dissuade those supporters in the run-up to Friday’s quarter-final. A Seleção put in a free-flowing performance in the round of 16 to comfortably see off South Korea and although they weren’t as impressive in their last eight tie against Croatia, they still created some reasonable opportunities and were kept at bay by a fine performance by opposing goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic. Until, that is, a superbly worked goal from Neymar lit up the game in the first half of extra-time and appeared to set Brazil on course for the semi-finals, where they would, as it turns, have met arch-rivals Argentina.
It was not to be. Bruno Petkovic’s deflected effort drew Croatia level with just three minutes of extra-time remaining and the Brazilians’ world came crashing down as Rodrygo and Marquinhos missed in the shoot-out, while the Croats converted all four of their spot-kicks.
Will Neymar retire from international football?
Neymar’s strike drew him level on 77 goals for Brazil with none other than Pelé but in the aftermath of the defeat, there are fears that it could have been his last, stoked by the player himself when asked about his future with the national team:
Brazil forward Neymar has hinted he may retire from international duty after his nation crashed out of the World Cup in Qatar. pic.twitter.com/oTMStlDi0i
— The Athletic | Football (@TheAthleticFC) December 10, 2022
“Honestly, I do not know. I think talking now is bad because of the heat of the moment. Maybe I’m not thinking straight.
“To say that this is the end would be rushing myself, but I don’t guarantee anything either. Let’s see what happens going forward.
“I want to take this time to think about it, think about what I want for myself. I will not close the door to playing with Brazil, nor do I say 100% that I’ll come back.
“I need to think a bit more about this, about what is the right thing for me and for the national team.”
How many titles has Neymar won with Brazil?
Neymar, who will be 34 when the 2026 World Cup comes around, made his debut for the Brazil in the days after their elimination from the 2010 tournament and has since gone to make 124 appearances, scoring 77 times. Despite his impressive goalscoring exploits at international level, there is a risk his career will come to an end having not won a single major trophy with A Seleção.
In the three World Cups Neymar has taken part in, Brazil have been eliminated at the quarter-final stage twice and once in the semi-finals, with the winger missing the 7-1 last-four humiliation against Germany in Belo Horizonte due to injury. The South Americans did win the Copa América in 2019 but Neymar also missed that tournament due to fitness issues, which means the only international title he has won is a Confederations Cup in 2013.
Pele’s tribute to Neymar
Following Neymar’s quotes, Brazil legend Pelé, currently in a stable condition in hospital as he battles different health issues, took to Instagram to pay tribute to his compatriot and congratulated him on equalling his goalscoring record:
“I saw you grow up, I cheered for you every day and finally I can congratulate you on equalling my number of goals with the Brazilian national team. We both know that it’s much more than a number.
“Unfortunately, the day is not the happiest for us, but you will always be the source of inspiration that many aspire to become. I’ve learned as time goes by the more our legacy grows.
“Keep inspiring us all. I will continue to punch the air of happiness with every goal you score, as I did in every match I saw you on the field.”
Dani Alves: Brazilian football needs Neymar
Neymar’s teammate Dani Alves, selected for the 2022 World Cup at the age of 39, has unsurprisingly announced his retirement from international football but has done his bit to convince Neymar to play on:
“I don’t think he’s in the same position as me. Neymar is incredible and Brazilian football needs him.”