For Brazil, the Confederations Cup final was not just about winning. It was about how they would win – doing so in a fashion which would suggest to disillusioned fans and citizens that things aren’t as bad for Brazilian football and the country in general as they have seemed lately.
They certainly achieved that. Brazil proved they are not as bad as some people wanted to paint them, and Big Phil Scolari proved he is actually doing a decent job so far.
It wasn’t your typical Brazil side, either. There were plenty of players in the side who have picked up that European work ethic to go with their South American panache.
All the flicks and tricky little moves are one thing, but they dominated the game technically and physically for 90 minutes to the point that 3-0 flattered the world champions.
Spain showed when they played Italy that they do not like being pressed or tackled, and by doing the same thing Brazil were able to put them under severe pressure and make them buckle. They took Italy’s blueprint on how to trouble the Spanish, and they improved upon it.
Of course, this coming season there will be even more Brazilian players in Europe to add that dimension to their play. Of note, Paulinho has just confirmed his move to Tottenham Hotspur, and Neymar is heading to Barcelona.
I am still not 100% sure about Neymar, just how good he is or can be. As gifted as he is, he often tries to do too much himself. He will try to beat three players at once almost every time, as if to say ‘look at me’ when this is obviously a team game.
Ironically, after Spain coming clearly second best to Brazil on Sunday, heading to La Liga I think should make Neymar a much better player. A more complete player.
The Spanish style should help instil more of a team mentality into Neymar. Hopefully he will learn a bit more about when to pass, when to dribble and when to shoot from his new team-mates.
Whether or not he proves himself as truly world class, as I said, is still a ‘maybe’ for now. But a Barcelona education, surrounded by better players and training in a disciplined environment, will give him a great chance.
Some have suggested that Neymar and Lionel Messi will not be able to play together, and perhaps in their current situation that could be the case. But once Barcelona begin to evolve Neymar into a team player, that will change.
Messi, the best player in the world, is a team player. That is no co-incidence, and perhaps the key factor in why he often beats Cristiano Ronaldo in awards ballots.
As skilled as Neymar is, opponents are often confident that they can deal with him more often than not because he is an entity unto himself. He will seldom pass, allowing a team to stick two men on him and limit his impact.
They know he will try to take them on, which means they can at least try to anticipate his moves. That will be even more the case against European defenders than in the Brazilian league and Copa Libertadores.
When he is taught to be more of a team player and his decision-making improves, it will take the limits off the undoubted skill he possesses and will make him even more dangerous. Working in that pass-and-move environment, his skills and his speed could make him absolutely unplayable.