The forward has been the undisputed star of the World Cup and has looked threatening every time he has touched the ball.
Things might not have gone so well for the forward at Barcelona but a tub of bleach for his locks and an equally yellow shirt to wear seem to have done him wonders.
Neymar no longer looks like the shell of a player who struggles, is booed and gives the ball away at the Camp Nou. He looks like a player whose name deserves to be spoken in the same breath as Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. In fact, he has outstripped the latter two hands down in Brazil so far.
Neymar has now scored a massive 35 goals for his national team in 52 caps – which for anyone is an outstanding achievement but for someone 22 years of age and for a side with the weight of expectation that comes when you put on the shirt like Brazil, you get the feeling that no matter how his club career pans out, on the international stage, Neymar is destined to be a star.
How ironic then that the Brazilian seems to have the opposite conundrum to Messi and Ronaldo, who have shone domestically, but when it comes to putting on their country’s shirts, they have flopped under the weight of expectation.
The closest either have come to shining has to be the Ronaldo performance against Sweden, which secured the Ballon d’Or for the player – and dragged Portugal to Brazil. A Portugal side who incidentally are not getting out of their group and have been branded ‘average’ by Ronaldo himself. You have to think that the frustration in that comment is mainly aimed at himself, with the Real Madrid man so evidently nowhere near fit.
Messi meanwhile has rescued a lacklustre Argentina side twice but has not looked half the player we expect – and two moments of magic aside, has flattered to deceive. Typical really given his performance in 2006 was actually pretty decent – but panned as he scored no goals, whereas now he is making the headlines by performing poorly but getting his team out of trouble and name on the score sheet – the result is all that matters at the end of the day.
Neymar meanwhile is actually looking like the player Barcelona broke the bank and got into all that trouble ‘misleading’ the taxman for and has played centrally and out on the flanks for Brazil, impressing in both roles.
Brazil may look unstoppable going forward, but they are not all that at the back – and that is being kind. They look God awful at times with Marcelo being directly at fault for two goals now and having a hand in a host of other defensive mishaps.
David Luiz looks no more convincing with Chelsea officials probably preparing themselves to explain to Paris Saint Germain that they do not accept refunds – even if you have kept the receipt.
Dani Alves is well, Dani Alves, and the nicest thing that can be said about the right back is that he is decent going forward and has been kind enough to share his hair dye with Neymar.
The ‘rock’ at the back is Thiago Silva, but one bad move or suspension for him and you have to fear for Brazil. Quite why Miranda and Filipe Luis are currently sunning themselves on a beach is a mystery that has thickened with each defensive performance to all but Scolari.
The midfield duo of Luiz Gustavo and Paulinho are not the people’s choice, with the masses hankering for Manchester City star Fernandinho to be given a chance to start, but they are Scolari’s. Say what you will about the former Chelsea boss, but he picks his favourite players and sticks with them. None more so than forward Fred.
Said favourite forward Fred has been copping the usual amount of stick for looking fairly inept up top – but seasoned Brazil watchers will know that the forward always pops up with a goal – and usually a vital one at that, so criticise him and prepare to have egg on your face is the basic sentiment there. That or face a very angry Dani Alves coming to his rescue.
Forward Hulk also has a part to play – although judging by his current physique, that may just be as the player who eats all the naughty food in the canteen and saves the others from packing on the pounds. He may have been unhappy in Russia this season, but there is only so much comfort eating a professional footballer can do without replicating the real Ronaldo at his heaviest. Sadly for Hulk, he might replicate the real Ronaldo in terms of weight, but in terms of ability they are poles apart.
That being said, Brazil look good with the beauty of the hosts being their attacking style of play.
They are not – as Spain were – bound to the tiki-taka style. If they need to play dirty or route one to win they will. There is a back-up plan. Even when that fails, it is not a problem, because they have the star of the moment to dig them out.
Scolari believes they are improving with every passing game and with Neymar looking unstoppable and the pride of being on home soil clearly a massive motivating factor for Brazil, bet against them at your peril.
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