Brazil coach Fernando Diniz called up Neymar and Vinicius Junior for the opening games of Selecao’s 2026 World Cup qualifying campaign on Friday but left out Lucas Paqueta, who faces a sports betting investigation in Britain.
Five-time champions Brazil, still smarting from being knocked out by Croatia in the 2022 World Cup quarter-finals, open their qualifying campaign against Bolivia on September 8 in Belem, northern Brazil, before taking on Peru on September 12 in Lima.
It is the first team announcement for 49-year-old Brazilian Diniz, who took over from Tite following Selecao’s disappointing campaign in Qatar.
There were doubts whether star forward Neymar, 31, would continue with the national team, frustrated by last year’s heartbreak and preoccupied with his newly announced move from Paris Saint-Germain to Saudi side Al-Hilal.
“I spoke with him recently and he was very willing and happy for the opportunity,” Diniz told a news conference in Rio de Janeiro.
“It is difficult to find a player who is his equal. He is a very rare talent.”
However, Diniz said he left Paqueta out of his 23-man squad after reports said the West Ham midfielder, who is reportedly in talks with Manchester City, is being investigated by the Football Association for a possible breach of sports betting rules.
“It’s not about condemning him in advance, on the contrary: it’s about protecting him, allowing Paquet to resolve the matter,” he said.
“The doors of the ‘Selecao’ will open for him as soon as he can resolve the situation favorably.”
According to Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) chief Ednaldo Rodrigues, Diniz, who also coaches Rio de Janeiro’s Fluminense, will hold both positions until Italian Carlo Ancelotti ends his contract with Real Madrid in June 2024 and takes over the reins of the Selecao.
Goalkeepers: Alisson, Bento, Ederson
Defenders: Danilo , Vanderson , Caio Henrique , Renan Lodi , Gabriel Magalhaes , Ibanez , Marquinhos , Nino
Midfielders: Andre , Bruno Guimaraes , Casimiro , Joelinton , Raphael Veiga
Forwards: Antony, Gabriel Martinelli, Matheus Cunha , Neymar , Richarlison , Rodrygo , Vinicius Junior.