Has Neymar finally silenced his critics?
Before the start of the Confederations Cup, there was a lot of expectation on Neymar. Is he as good as people say he is. A tournament in his home country was the perfect opportunity for Neymar to show his potential.
Brazil's golden boy is rated very highly by some. His summer switch to Barcelona only enhancing his ever growing reputation.
But for others, people don't see what the big fuss is about. Every time the Brazilian has played in Europe he has been poor. There have been very few glimpses of the YouTube star that many people have seen.
Neymar is a massive name around the world let alone just in his native Brazil. He is the most marketable footballer in the world and is the poster boy of Brazilian football. Everyone has heard of Neymar and everyone has an opinion on him.
But what people have seen of him so far hardly deserves the comparisons to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo that he regularly gets. He was quiet in the Olympics in 2012 as Brazil eventually lost in the final to Mexico. In 2011, Neymar was part of a poor Brazilian showing as they lost in the quarter finals of the Copa America to Paraguay.
Pressure was on for Neymar to perform. A competition in his home country where he is adored by everyone and failing in his previous tournaments. Neymar also wears the number 10 jersey, made famous in Brazil by the man he gets compared to regularly, Pele.
In the opening game against Japan, Neymar and Brazil got off to a flyer. A searching ball from Marcelo was chested down into Neymar's path by Fred. Neymar done the rest. From 20 yards, Neymar rifled a half volley past the despairing goalkeeper. The Maracana erupted and Brazil would cruise to a 3-0 win.
Next up was Mexico and again Brazil and Neymar got off to a flyer. A cross from the right was poorly cleared. The ball was sent looping into the air and Neymar watched it all the way and hammered a left footed volley beyond Corona in the Mexico goal. But his assist for Jo's last minute goal will be something that people will see for a long time. Neymar was heading down the line and was up against two defenders. A few stepovers and a change of direction and Neymar left two defenders for dead. After a great piece of skill, Neymar needed an end product and he delivered by squaring the ball to Jo for him to tap it in.
An exciting game against Italy saw Brazil eventually come out 4-2 winners. Neymar was at it again and scored a great free kick, albeit Gianluigi Buffon may have done better as he was beaten on his side of the wall. But Neymar was given the man of the match award. An award he had received in all three of Brazil's matches in the Confederations Cup. Had the Neymar that many people rave about finally arrived on the world stage.
A tough semi final saw Brazil face fellow South Americans Uruguay. Neymar was at the heart of both goals as a late Paulinho header saw the Brazilian's progress to the final.
In the final, Brazil would face current World and European Champions Spain. A side that had not conceded a goal in knock out football since losing to France in the 2006 World Cup.
It would take Brazil 90 seconds to break the Spanish down. A team clearly fired up after the Brazilian national anthem was blasted around the ground before kick off. A moment that had to be seen to be believed. A capacity crowd in the Maracana joined the players on the pitch in singing their hearts out.
Spain just couldn't get to grips with Brazil. Their passing was poor and Brazil dominated the game. The poster boy of Brazilian football came to the party late in the first half. Neymar had been given Alvaro Arbeloa a torrid time in the first half. Neymar lost Arbeloa again as Oscar slipped the ball through, there was still a lot to do, but Neymar rifled a left footed shot into the roof of the net as it beat Iker Casillas at his near post. The Spanish keeper had no time to react.
Brazil ran out 3-0 winners and the win has given the country hope that they can yet again be the best team in the world.
For Neymar, it was a brilliant tournament. He had a chance to shine and he took it. He ended the tournament with a winners medal, was voted player of the tournament, named in the team of the tournament and received the bronze boot for scoring 4 goals.
Neymar finally performed against good opposition. He caused the Italians problems all night and ran Arbeloa ragged. But the tournament was on home soil. It will be different when he moves to Barcelona and faces tough European opposition in the Champions League. Defenders will need to be wary of not giving him too much space. If they do, Neymar can turn and run at you and cause you problems. But sticking tight and keeping his options limited, the full backs night might be a lot easier.
It will be interesting to see how the Brazilian copes being in Messi's shadow. Messi is the best player in the world and is the main man in that Barcelona team. But Neymar can learn so much from the Argentinian and the two of them can cause other teams so many problems.
Neymar has definitely silenced some of his critics. But there's a lot that still remain. A lot of people will hold judgement until he plays in the Champions League to see if he really is one of the best players in the world.
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