At the age of 22, Neymar has a very good chance of already putting himself along the biggest names in the history of the Brazil national football team. His transcendence when it mattered the most to help the Seleção secure qualification from the first place in their group has gotten him slightly closer to that legendary status.
Only 22, but already with 52 caps for the national team and more importantly 35 goals. That puts him at sixth on the all-time scoring list for the national team: Ahead of Rivaldo and Ronaldinho, behind Bebeto, Romario, Ronaldo, Zico and Pele. His average of 0.67 goals per match is fifth all time, with Pele and his 0.84 per match once again being the golden standard for the national team.
If Neymar does end up leading Brazil to a World Cup trophy, there won’t be any question about his place in history. Despite the fact that he’s barely out of the teenager period, a special place is reserved for the players who made history. Right now Neymar is practically alone on the offensive side but things looked slightly better against a broken Cameroon team, which might be no indication for things to come, especially against an excellent Chile team.
There’s more to Brazil than Neymar, but only if Scholari allows it. Hulk back in the lineup was a major influence, and using Fernandinho at some point instead of the terrible Paulinho was a welcome change. Oscar can’t keep playing like he did during the final third of the season at Chelsea, and the wing back situation with Dani Alves and especially Marcelo making it so easy to create chances through the wings is worrying, despite the excellent play of Thiago Silva so far.
Neymar is doing what is expected of him. He played almost like a central striker in the win, ignoring the positioning of Fred, who at this point can only score if he’s alone in the five-meter box without anyone to disturb him. The problem is getting the rest to follow and raise their game accordingly. The match against Mexico was a perfect example of how a quality side will give Brazil plenty of problems.
This wasn’t the best of seasons for Neymar – Barcelona, next to Lionel Messi, wasn’t the most welcoming of places. His statistics don’t tell the whole story; he usually played well even when not scoring, but it seems that for him, playing for the national team in the World Cup has been the perfect way to escape and put the problems in the rear-view mirror. It seems that the further he is in mind and body from the Camp Nou, the better things are for him and Brazil.