RIO DE JANEIRO: Crocked Brazilian star Neymar declared he wants Lionel Messi to lead fierce rivals Argentina to victory over Germany as the countdown to the World Cup final began.
Neymar, who missed Brazil’s 7-1 humiliation against Germany through injury, told a press conference he wanted Messi and Argentina to win the title.
“Messi’s history in the sport is so important, he has won a lot of trophies and I will be cheering for him,” said Neymar, a teammate of Messi’s at Barcelona.
“He is a friend, he is my teammate and I wish him luck.”
Neymar’s support of Messi, and by extension Argentina, is unlikely to be shared by many of his compatriots.
Brazilians are dreading the prospect of Argentina claiming their third world title in the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday.
The South American nations are sworn footballing enemies, and Argentina’s advance to the final rubbed salt into Brazilian wounds still fresh from Tuesday’s record defeat to Germany.
“The nightmare continues,” O Dia newspaper commented glumly after Argentina booked their place in the final by beating the Netherlands on Wednesday.
As many as 100,000 Argentine fans are expected to descend on Rio for the final, the climax of a month-long footballing fiesta.
Germany meanwhile said they had quickly wiped away the euphoria felt from their thrashing of Brazil.
Germany’s veteran striker Miroslav Klose, who became the World Cup’s all-time leading scorer with the second goal against Brazil, said his team had quickly forgotten the momentous win.
“We enjoyed the game against Brazil, but we ticked it off after 24 hours,” Klose said. “In the next game, we have to again play to the best of our abilities.”
Germany assistant coach Hansi Flick said his team had studied the way the Netherlands managed to successfully contain Messi.
“We saw how the Dutch managed to keep Messi out, but we too have a special plan for him — although I won’t give that away,” said Flick.
Argentina’s players began plotting Germany’s downfall as they returned to Belo Horizonte.
Striker Sergio Aguero said his teammates were comfortable in the marginal underdog role, insisting all the pressure would be on Germany.
“Germany were always the favourites, along with Brazil, to win the World Cup,” the Manchester City man said.
“They continue to be so now. We need to play our own game and it suits us that all the pressure is on them.”
Elsewhere Thursday, FIFA dismissed appeals by Uruguay and Luis Suarez over the striker’s four-month ban for biting.
Suarez was thrown out of the World Cup and banned from all football activity for four months after being found guilty of biting Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini in a Group D game on June 24.
It was the third time Suarez has been found guilty of biting an opponent in his career.
The 27-year-old initially denied any wrongdoing. He later issued an apology admitting Chiellini had “suffered the physical result of a bite.”
If FIFA’s ban is upheld, Suarez will not play football again until late October.
A nine-match international ban also means he will miss all or most of Uruguay’s campaign in the 2015 Copa America.
Suarez has been strongly linked with a move to Barcelona, a deal that seemed to edge closer after the Spanish giants completed the sale of Chile’s World Cup star Alexis Sanchez to Arsenal.