August 22, 2019
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Neymar joins Brazilian national soccer team ahead of Copa America

Teresopolis, Brazil, May 25 (efe-epa).- Neymar, the captain of Brazil's national soccer team, joined his teammates on Saturday to start preparations for the Copa America soccer tournament.

His club team, Paris Saint-Germain, had given him permission to travel to his homeland before season's end, since a suspension had made him ineligible for champion PSG's final Ligue 1 game on Friday night (a 3-1 loss to Reims).

PSG head coach Thomas Tuchel said he had not been consulted about the club's decision.

Neymar arrived by helicopter from Rio de Janeiro to Teresopolis at 12.15 pm Saturday and immediately made his way to the Granja Comary soccer complex in Teresopolis, the Brazilian national team's modern training center 98 kilometers (60 miles) from Rio.

He was the ninth of 23 players called up to Brazil's squad to arrive for training for the Copa America, which gets under way on June 14.

The PSG player signed autographs and greeted a few privileged fans with access to the heliport where the flight landed before heading to the training center located a kilometer away.

Neymar was initially expected to arrive on Tuesday along with other Brazilian national-team call-ups who play for teams in France and Italy, whose leagues wrap up their seasons this weekend.

The superstar forward was suspended for PSG's final three Ligue 1 games for hitting a fan who had insulted him after PSG's defeat to Rennes in the April 27 Coupe de France final.

In a press conference a week ago, Brazilian head coach Tite said in announcing his Copa America call-ups that he would have a conversation with Neymar and then decide whether to sanction him for the violent incident.

Some former Brazilian national team players called for Neymar to be left off the Copa America squad, while others said he should be stripped of his captain's armband.

The star player's teammates, however, have supported him and said his participation is essential to the squad's title hopes.

Neymar said in remarks uploaded Saturday to the Brazilian soccer federation's Web site that he was extremely excited about joining the national side.

"I'm 100 percent concentrated (on the Copa America) and very happy.

"There's a lot of pressure, but when the national team is in tune with the fans, it can't be stopped," he said.

Brazil will play two final pre-Copa America friendlies - on June 5 against Qatar in Brasilia and on June 9 against Honduras in Porto Alegre.

The home squad has been drawn into Group A in the Copa America along with Bolivia, Venezuela and Peru and will play the inaugural match of the three-week tournament against Bolivia on June 14.

The tournament will be contested by the 10 members of the South American Soccer Confederation (Conmebol) - Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela - with Japan and Qatar as guests.

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