Brazil’s World Cup team has paid tribute to their country’s footballing legend Pele by dedicating their 4-1 victory over South Korea to the ailing 82-year-old who is receiving treatment for respiratory infection at a Sao Paulo hospital and is also undergoing treatment for colon cancer.
The Brazilian players unfurled a large banner featuring Pele’s name and a picture of him in his footballing prime following Monday’s match against South Korea at Stadium 974 in Doha, Qatar. Brazil won the match 4-1 and qualified for the tournament’s quarter-finals.
Brazil’s supporters in the stands also unfurled an enormous banner with a get well soon message for Pele, who is widely regarded as one of the greatest football players of all time and was part of Brazilian teams that won three of their five World Cup titles.
“It’s hard to talk about what Pele is going through right now but I wish him all the best,” Brazil’s star player Neymar said after the match.
“I hope he will be back in good health as soon as possible and that we could have at least comforted him with the victory,” Neymar told Brazilian media outlet Globo.
Striker Neymar also revealed that he had feared the World Cup might be over for him after hobbling off in his first match in Qatar against Serbia with a heavily swollen ankle.
The world’s most expensive player had to sit out his team’s last two matches as he received treatment.
“The night I got injured was very hard for me because I had a thousand things in my head — doubts, fears — but I had the support of my teammates and my family,” he told reporters, saying he had cried that evening.
“I had to find strength where there wasn’t any.”
Brazil’s Vinicius Jr opened the scoring against South Korea after just seven minutes on Monday and Neymar added another goal from the penalty spot to move to 76 goals for his country, leaving him just one away from equalling Pele’s all-time record tally.
Vinicius Jr dedicated the victory over South Korea to Pele.
“He needs a lot of strength from us and this victory is for him, so that he can come out of this situation and that we can be champions for him,” he said.
Richarlison gave Brazil their third goal in the 26th minute, and 10 minutes later, Lucas Paqueta put away their fourth goal.
It was a chastening experience for the intrepid South Koreans, though Paik Seung-ho did put one goal away for his side to end the match 4-1.
Coach Paulo Bento confirmed after the match that he will not renew his contract with South Korea and the defeat by Brazil would be his last with the Taegeuk Warriors.
“I just announced to the players and president of the Confederation this decision I made in September. This was a decision set in stone, and today I confirmed it,” he said.
“I have to thank them for everything, they gave their best. I have been proud to be their manager,” said Bento, who had been in the position since 2018.
“From now, we just have to think of the future, and it will not be with the national team for South Korea,” he said.
Brazil are now due to face Croatia in the World Cup quarter-finals on Friday.
The Croatians beat Japan on penalties earlier on Monday after their last-16 tie finished 1-1.