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

Pele, 82, said in an Instagram post before the game 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 by leading the South American side to their first title.

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

Brazil's players returned the support after their 4-1 thrashing of South Korea, unfurling a banner on the pitch with a photo of the soccer great after his 1970 World Cup win that simply read: "Pele!"

"I hope he gets well as quickly as possible and that he can take comfort in the victory today," Brazil's star forward Neymar said after the match.

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

He was hospitalized in Sao Paulo last week to re-evaluate his treatment and is also being treated for a respiratory infection, according to medical reports.

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

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

(Reporting by Gabriel Araujo; editing by Jonathan Oatis)