‘Keep inspiring us. I will keep punching the air with joy for every goal you score’: Pele congratulates Neymar on tying his Brazil goals record, but says ‘this is not the happiest day for us’ after their World Cup elimination by Croatia
Pele has congratulated Neymar on matching his goalscoring record with Brazil, but commiserated with the squad after their World Cup exit on Friday.
The footballing great, 82, has been hospitalised with a respiratory infection amid cancer treatment, and followed Brazil’s quarter-final from the hospital.
He saw Neymar score the opener in extra time, which drew him level with Pele for goals scored for Brazil against other international teams – a record which the Brazilian Football Confederation considers different to goals scored representing Brazil against club teams, which puts the three time World Cup winner far out in front.
Neymar scored the opening goal in extra time, but Brazil were pegged back in the 116th minute
However, Bruno Petkovic’s 116th minute equaliser sent the game at the Education City Stadium to a penalty shootout, which the Croatians won 4-2 after misses from Rodrygo and Marquinhos.
On Instagram, the 82-year-old legend posted a picture of Neymar, and wrote: ‘I saw you grow, I cheered for you every day and I can finally congratulate you for reaching my number of goals with Brazil.
‘We both know that this is more than a figure. Our biggest duty as athletes is to inspire. Inspire our teammates of today, the next generations and, above all, everyone who loves our sport.’
Neymar’s goal saw him tie Pele’s record for goals scored for Brazil against international sides
Neymar has questioned his international future after Brazil’s shock quarter-final exit in Qatar
Pele went on to address Brazil’s elimination from the tournament. ‘Unfortunately this is not the happiest day for us.
‘My record was set almost 50 years ago, and nobody had managed to get near it until now. You got there, kid. That shows how great your achievement is.’
Neymar himself said that he was unsure about his international future after the shootout exit – being unable to take a penalty himself as the plan was for him to step up for Brazil’s fifth, only for the nation to be eliminated after just four.
Brazil icon Pele watched most of the World Cup from hospital following a respiratory infection
In a direct message to the 30-year-old, Pele – real name Edson Arantes do Nascimento – wrote: ‘Keep inspiring us. I will keep punching the air with joy for every goal you score, as I did in every match I saw you on the pitch.’
Brazil now enter an extended period of change, with Tite leaving as manager, and Dani Alves confirming his exit as an international player after the elimination.
The next Copa America tournament is in two years time, whilst the next World Cup takes place in North America in 2026.
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