Pele backs Neymar to be fit and ready for Brazil World Cup title tilt

Brazil are one of the favorites to win this summer's World Cup, even without Neymar in their starting XI.
Updated 16 April 2018
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Pele backs Neymar to be fit and ready for Brazil World Cup title tilt

  • Brazil star in race against time to be fit for showpiece in Russia.
  • Football legend Pele has hope Neymar will be back to his best in time for tournament.

Brazilian legend Pele says he is confident about Brazil’s chances at the upcoming World Cup and expects injured star Neymar to be fully fit to lead the side in Russia.
The 77-year-old, who has been in ailing health recently, put his faith in Paris Saint-Germain striker Neymar’s ability to recover from a fractured foot in time to lead Brazil to a possible sixth World Cup crown.
“We don’t know exactly what is going to happen, but I think for the World Cup he’s going to be in shape because his injury is not so bad,” Pele, the only person to have won the World Cup three times as a player, said.
“I wish he has the same luck I had in the World Cup.”
PSG’s Neymar, the world’s most expensive player, has not played since breaking a metatarsal bone in his right foot on Feb. 25 in a Ligue 1 match against Marseille. He said last week he is still recovering following surgery but expects to be fit in time for the World Cup which kicks off in Moscow on June 14.
In the last World Cup on home soil four years ago, Brazil were humiliated 7-1 by eventual winners Germany in the semifinals. It was as chastening a defeat as any suffered by hosts of the showpiece — not least because many pundits had Brazil down as favorites to win the tournament. But Pele feels the team under “psychologist” Tite, which breezed through South American qualifying, has the tools to go all the way, and put the shocking semifinal of four years ago to the back of fans’ minds.
“I am confident because Tite, the new coach, now (has) had a little time to set up the team.
“We have a lot of excellent players in Europe. The problem is to put the team together.
“I think we’re going to have a good team at the World Cup.”
Pele said he expected few surprises at the tournament, identifying Lionel Messi’s Argentina, Germany, England and France as potential challengers.
However, he said “football is a box of surprises,” so you cannot rule any side out.
As for his own health problems — Pele canceled a trip to England in January due to “exhaustion,” although his spokesman denied he had been hospitalized — Pele said there was little cause for concern. “I cannot play in the next World Cup but I feel good,” he said with a hearty laugh.


From near-death in Libyan desert to Saudi Arabia in 40 years: A history of the Dakar Rally

Updated 25 April 2019
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From near-death in Libyan desert to Saudi Arabia in 40 years: A history of the Dakar Rally

  • Race will start in Jeddah and make a stop in Riyadh before ending in Qiddiya
  • Take a look back at the most momentous moments

LONDON: A new and exciting chapter in the prestigious history of the Dakar Rally is ready to be written as the world’s biggest and most challenging rally confirmed it will debut in Saudi Arabia in January 2020.

1977: Inspiration
Biker Thierry Sabine gets lost in the Libyan desert while competing in the Abidjan-Nice Rally. After being rescued from the sands on the verge of death, he vows to share the scale and magic of the desert with the whole world.

1978: A dream come true
On 26 December 1978, a field of 170 adventurers starts its 10,000-kilometer quest through Algeria, Niger, Mali, the Upper Volta, and Senegal. A total of 74 vehicles make it to the finish on Place de l’Indépendance in Dakar, with Cyril Neveu at the helm.

1983: Ickx on all fronts
Celebrities and the best drivers and riders in the world heed the call of the Dakar. The combination is a successful one, with the six-time winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans Jacky Ickx and comedian Claude Brasseur taking the spoils in the fourth edition.

1986: Tragedy strikes
Thierry Sabine and Daniel Balavoine die in a helicopter crash alongside pilot François-Xavier Bagnoud, journalist Nathalie Odent and radio technician Jean-Paul Lefur. Gilbert Sabine, the father of the creator of the race, takes over as director.

1992: Africa from north to south
The Dakar takes a break from the capital of Senegal to pit the competitors against the challenge of a lifetime. The drivers and riders have to tackle a route of almost 12,500 kilometers through 11 countries to cross Africa from one side to the other and reach Cape Town in South Africa. Stéphane Peterhansel (motorbikes) and Hubert Auriol (cars) stand atop the podium at the end of the Odyssey.

1998: Peterhansel rolls a six
The biker with a blue bandana emerges victorious from a clash of titans with Orioli and Arcarons to become the undisputed master of the category in the 1990s. His sixth win catapults him past Cyril Neveu as the event record holder. “Peter” has since added seven car victories to his tally!

2000: At the foot of the pyramids
The Dakar marks the turn of the century next to one of the seven wonders of the world: the Great Pyramid of Giza. Reigning champions Richard Sainct (motorbikes) and Jean-Louis Schlesser (cars) both manage to defend their titles against this prestigious backdrop.

2001: Miss Dakar
No one suspects that this will be the last Paris–Dakar. In contrast, everyone sees Jutta Kleinschmidt, who had made her Dakar debut in 1988 on a motorbike, become the first woman to win the rally, this time racing at the wheel of a Mitsubishi 4×4. She remains the only female winner of the event to date.

2009: Rising from the ashes in Buenos Aires
The Dakar picks itself up and crosses the Atlantic to rise from the ashes. A new era dawns with 4 million spectators turning out in force to cheer on the drivers and riders in the majestic landscapes of Argentina and Chile.

2012: Pacific Challenge
After three years with a route starting and ending in Buenos Aires, the organizers break the mold with a finish on the Pacific coast of Lima, Peru.

2014: Dizzying heights
Bolivia becomes the 28th country to host the Dakar. The Altiplano and Salar de Uyuni introduce a new test for the competitors: extreme altitude, which takes a toll on both their bodies and their machines.

2020: Chapter 3
In the wake of its first foray into Paraguay in 2017, the Dakar adds the 30th country to its list. In Saudi Arabia, the largest country on the Arabian Peninsula, the competitors will face challenges such as the “Empty Quarter,” a pristine expanse that has never been explored fully before.