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Pele cheered for Brazil from hospital during World Cup win over South Korea

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Brazil football legend Pele on Monday backed Brazil's national team ahead of their World Cup round-of-16 match against South Korea, saying he will watch the game from hospital after being admitted there last week as he battles colon cancer.

Pele, 82, said in an Instagram post that he wished to inspire Brazil's players by sharing a picture taken at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden, when the then-teenager shocked the world in leading the South American side to their first title.

Brazil went on to win the game 4-1 to set up a quarterfinal match with Croatia on Dec. 9.

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"I'll watch the game from here at the hospital and I'll be rooting for each one of you," Pele said ahead of the match starting later on Monday in Qatar. "We are on this journey together. Good luck to our Brazil!"

Neymar scored a first-half penalty against South Korea for his 76th goal with Brazil to move one shy of Pele's all-time scoring record with the national team.

"It is difficult to talk about what Pele is going through, but I wish all the best for him," Neymar said after the game.

Brazil's players returned the support after advancing to the quarterfinals, posing for a team picture after the win with a banner showing a picture of the three-times World Cup champion.

"I hope he recovers as soon as possible and that he can be at least comfortable today after the victory and with the banner that we dedicated to him. For me, to achieve records is a very great pride. I have achieved things that I would never have imagined I would achieve. I am very happy and content," Neymar said.

Fans at the Stadium 974 honoured Pele with many banners and shirts and chanting his name in the 10th minute of each half. Pele used to wear the No. 10 jersey.

Neymar faced a race to be fit for Brazil's first knockout-stage game -- he returned to training on Sunday evening and still needed medical staff to clear him to play -- but the 30-year-old has been to start on Brazil's left-wing against South Korea.

Brazil's players have been sending encouragement to Pele as he faces this health battle back home in Sao Paulo.

Pele, internationally revered as one of the greatest -- if not the greatest -- footballers of all time, had a tumor removed from his colon in September 2021 and has been receiving hospital care on a regular basis.

He was hospitalised last week to reevaluate his treatment and is also being treated for a respiratory infection, according to medical reports.

His daughters confirmed on Sunday that he had COVID-19 and a heart rate below normal before being hospitalized.

Pele tested positive for COVID-19 on Nov. 17 and has been treated with medication to control pain and fever, but COVID-19 was one of the initial reasons he was taken to the hospital, sources told ESPN.

Pele played for Brazil and club sides Santos and the New York Cosmos as a striker. He helped lead his country to three World Cup championships three times -- in 1958, 1962 and 1970 -- a feat no other player has achieved.

Brazil are seeking to win a record-extending sixth world title.