Brazil starts World Cup preparations outside Rio

PSG's Neymar arrives prior to the League One soccer match between Paris Saint-Germain and Stade Rennais at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, Saturday May 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Brazil wants to reduce the expectations on Neymar.

The world’s most expensive footballer is at the end of his recovery from a foot operation, and joined 16 Brazil teammates on Monday for physical and medical tests at their Granja Comary camp in Teresopolis, outside Rio de Janeiro.

Neymar was also going to receive a private meeting with Brazil coach Tite, who wants to try and reduce the pressure on the striker.

”Neymar will hear from Tite that he spent three months off the pitch and will not be the exceptional Neymar after that,” Brazilian Football Confederation coordinator Edu Gaspar said at the camp.

”We will create some ground for him to get his self-confidence back, and that it goes up without too much pressure on his performances.”

Neymar hasn’t played since late February when he cracked the fifth metatarsal that connects to the little toe in his right foot. On March 3 he underwent surgery in Brazil and returned to training just one week ago in France.

”Neymar will keep doing what he is doing at Paris Saint-Germain. There is a physical part, then a technical one. But there will also be the emotional part, so he has the real magnitude of what we are thinking,” Gaspar said. ”We are not thinking only about Neymar, we will have communication strategies for every athlete.”

Gaspar said Neymar will be expected to play about 45 minutes of the friendly against Croatia in Liverpool on June 3, the first of two for Brazil before the World Cup. The second is against Austria in Vienna on June 10.

”Today, we talked about playing those two games as if they were the World Cup,” Gaspar said.

”We need total reality then, so we start the tournament well. We studied those two teams tactically and saw they were ideal for those friendlies. For now, they are more important than our (World Cup) opener.”

Brazil opens in Russia against Switzerland on June 17 in Rostov. Their group also features Costa Rica and Serbia.

Left back Marcelo, midfielder Casemiro, and striker Roberto Firmino will only join the squad in London next Monday, after Real Madrid and Liverpool meet in the Champions League final in Kiev.

The first actual Brazil training will take place on Wednesday at the camp, which went through a $4 million renovation to host the team until Sunday.

Brazil will have six practices in Teresopolis before moving camp to North London until June 8.