Neymar’s Brazil look strong as Germany, Argentina tackle problems

Neymar's acclaimed return ahead of the World Cup supplied Brazil with an immeasurable boost, but holders Germany and Argentina arrive at the tournament confronting inconsistent form and disrupted preparations.
Neymar’s Brazil look strong as Germany, Argentina tackle problems
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Neymar's acclaimed return ahead of the World Cup supplied Brazil with an immeasurable boost, but holders Germany and Argentina arrive at the tournament confronting inconsistent form and disrupted preparations.

The Paris Saint-Germain superstar's swashbuckling display in a 45-minute appearance against Croatia last weekend largely dismissed lingering concerns over his fitness after more than three months out with a fractured foot.

The 26-year-old admitted he was only at "80 percent" but promised he would be raring to go come Brazil's first game at the finals against Switzerland on June 17.

"For the first match back I actually expected less from him! I would have been happy with a quieter performance," Brazil coach Tite said of Neymar.

"What he did was really extraordinary." Brazil's form under Tite, appointed midway through a faltering qualifying campaign, suggests it will be difficult to stop the five-time world champions from adding another title in Russia.

Trouble ahead for Germany? –

Manuel Neuer's comeback following eight months out with a foot injury has given Germany a much-needed shot in the arm, with Joachim Loew's side struggling to hit their stride ahead of their title defence.

An unconvincing 2-1 win over Saudi Arabia on Friday halted a five-match winless run, although Ilkay Gundogan was booed by Germany supporters after meeting Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and calling him "my president".

"The fact that a national player is booed like that helps nobody," Loew told broadcaster ARD, insisting the incident be put in the past.

Argentina's build-up was jolted by the cancellation of a controversial friendly against Israel in Jerusalem, a fixture set to be their final outing ahead of the World Cup.

With goalkeeper Sergio Romero already ruled out, Argentina's plans were further complicated by the loss of Manuel Lanzini to injury, but team manager Omar Souto believes all is in place for a successful competition.

"I have been at five World Cups and this is the best set-up because it has everything… There's never been a place like this for the national team," he told AFP, with Argentina due to arrive at their Bronnitsy training base, 40km southeast of Moscow, later on Saturday.

Pogba worry for France? –

A hugely talented France squad head to Russia with high expectations, but Didier Deschamps is still struggling to find a system that will enable him to unlock the full potential in his team.

Paul Pogba, who will have a huge role to play if France are to succeed, was jeered by a smattering of home fans after an underwhelming performance in a recent 3-1 win over Italy.

"People talk a lot about Paul. He's a midfielder, he's not a number 10, nor a forward," said Deschamps.

Gareth Southgate admitted he faces a selection dilemma after Marcus Rashford starred in a 2-0 win over Costa Rica, but a reasonable draw could allow them to reach a first World Cup quarter-final since 2006. AFP

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