FIFA World Cup 2014: Neymar's coming of age
With the World Cup closing in, it is time to start picking favourites. Playing in their own backyard, Brazil will definitely be heavy favourites going into the tournament. The likes of Argentina, Germany, Spain, Portugal and the Dutch too can be fairly be picked alongside Brazil. However, apart from being heavy favourites, the stakes will be sky high. The reinstillation of Luiz Felipe Scolari and playing in front of a home crowd, Brazil have gone on to become the bookmaker’s favourite.
Apart from that tag, Brazil boasts of perhaps the best attacking unit in the tounament. On paper at least. The experience of Hulk, Fred, Willian and Oscar have establsihed themselves as World CLass players. Neymar however, is the heart beat of that attacking unit.
Following the heart break of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Santos discovered a starlet. He dazzled them with his jaw-dropping skill and ball control. Little did anyone know that he would carry the mantle of the Brazilian attack in the future. A mantle that has been carried by the some of the greatest players- Pele, Ronaldo, Socrates, Romario and so on. His name was Neymar.
Despite having made big strides for Santos in their youth teams, Neymar burst onto the scene in 2009, leaving greats like Pele and Romario awe-struck. In fact, they literally begged Dunga, then coach of Brazil to include him in the squad for the 2010 World Cup. Dunga however was having none of it saying that he (Neymar) was not ready yet.
With his reputation and popularity growing steadily, Neymar got a chance to prove himself in the 2012 London Olympics. Despite not winning the gold medal, Neymar’s footballing genius was there for all to see. His performance in the 3-1 victory against Belarus perfectly epitomized his footballing genius. Following a 25-yard free kick that landed in the top right corner, he went on to assist Alexandre Pato as well as Oscar to secure Brazil’s qualification to the knockout stages. A perfect performance.
Neymar’s finest hour however, came in the 2013 Confederations cup played in Brazil. With the appointment of Luiz Felipe Scolari, Neymar was handed the No.10 jersey. The effect was immediate and positive. Barring the semifinals, Neymar scored in every game to take his tally to 4 goals for the tournament. Four goals and the numerous assists and chances created during the tournament saw him secure the Golden Ball.
Since then, Neymar has not looked back. Despite the un-necessary drama surrounding his transfer to Barcelona, Neymar answered his doubters the only way he knows. Having made a relatively slow start to the season (by his standards), he went on to score the opening goal and assist Alexis Sanchez in his first El Clasico. A feat which saw him go into the history books.
Having laid out almost all of his achievements, it is safe to assume that the stage is ideally set for Neymar. Considering the kind of form he is in now, there is no reason to doubt the fact that the World is at his feet. Moreover, Scolari has decided to retain the combination of Fred, Neymar, Hulk and Oscar up front, much to the happiness of the Brazilian fans. However, this little piece of news sounds a distress call to the rest of the teams participating.
After witnessing the annihilation of Spain at the hands of Neymar and company in the final of the Confederations Cup, the rest of the teams participating will definitely have a rough idea of what the trio are capable of.
The one thing however that can be agreed on with absolute certainty is that the stage has been set for Neymar. Whether he will set that stage on fire remains to be seen. Neymar’s very presence in the Brazilian squad has prompted Scolari to mention without any hesitation that Brazil would feature in the final. A bold statement considering the heart break of the 1950 World Cup.
However, this is a new generation of football players and this is a fresh World Cup. This is a Brazilian side who believe they can erase that heart ache and lift their 6th World Cup. For that though, they will need their key man Neymar to fire.
Whether Neymar lives up to the sky high expectations remains to be seen. The one thing that has been determined however is that Neymar well and truly has the World at his feet.