Speaking to AFP in Dubai, 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 global football title.
“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,” said Pele, the only person to have won the World Cup three times as a player.
“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 February 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 from June 14 to July 15.
In the last World Cup on home soil four years ago, Brazil were humiliated 7-1 by eventual winners Germany in the semi-finals but Pele feels the team under “psychologist” Tite, which breezed through South American qualifying, has the tools to go all the way.
“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 in the next World Cup.”
Pele said he expected few surprises at the tournament, identifying Lionel Messi’s Argentina, Germany, England and France as potential challengers — although he didn’t mention 2010 world champions Spain or current European laureates Portugal, led by their talisman Cristiano Ronaldo.
However, he said “football is a box of surprises”.
As for his own health problems – Pele cancelled a trip to England in January due to “exhaustion”, although his spokesman denied he had been hospitalised — 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.
“I had an injury, then I had to make a surgery for the head of my hip, then I had to replace (it), then I had a little problem with my meniscus, but now I am OK, I am ready, in good shape!”
Provided by AFP Sport
“I like Tite. He’s honest with the players,” Pele said. “He’s going to be good and going to do nice work with Brazil.”
Pele says this year’s team should be making the final at the very least, if not winning it all, although he noted that Tite will have difficulties in getting the squad together to build his team ahead of the World Cup in Russia, with Brazil’s best players scattered across Europe.
The former Santos player added that he is not a fan of the World Cup’s decision to expand to 48 teams starting from 2026, although he acknowledged that it was a good opportunity for more countries to make it to football’s showpiece event.
“The more teams you get, the lower the quality of the game,” said Pele. “I think it’s too many teams.
“Let’s see. Maybe some country who’s never come to the final, never won the World Cup, could win.”
The 25-year-old’s form for Manchester United under Jose Mourinho this season has been indifferent, with questions marks raised around how to get the best out of the Frenchman.
Didier Deschamps, who has a plethora of midfield talent at his disposal ahead of this summer’s tournament in Russia, will also be faced with the decision of how to make the most of the former Juventus man’s talents, without compromising his side’s balance.
Pogba scored and set up another in France’s 3-1 friendly win against hosts Russia last month, and Desailly, who was speaking following Hublot’s Match of Friendship in Dubai, believes his positive display came from being played on the right of a midfield three.
“Where do you put Pogba? Again as a playmaker, or as a holding midfielder? Is he a defensive midfielder in two, with a three, or just with [N’Golo] Kante who will stay?,” Desailly told Sport360.
“I think on the right of the midfield three is best. Because you cannot count on him for 90 minutes of defending. He has the pretension, and everyone sees it, that he can attack, he can create and he can go forward. You feel restricted when you get him in a defensive position.”
20 years on from France’s World Cup success on home soil, Desailly believes Deschamps’ side have the quality to replicate that feat, but insists they won’t be the favourites in Russia this summer.
“I think it’s quite difficult for Didier to put down his tactical setup, but once he has done that, France will probably show great ability,” Desailly added.
“They can (win the World Cup) but there are teams that are better than them at the moment. The Brazilian, Spanish and German teams, especially the Brazilians, collectively and individually they are much better.”