Neymar destined for greatness after another breathtaking display

The Rio Report

View gallery

.

There was something inevitable about it all.

Brazil's best player appearing for the first time at a stadium named after one of this country's most fabled footballing idols. Neymar at the Estadio Mane Garrincha. Two dribblers, two dreamers, united by the universe. It sounded like a recipe for fun.

The people of Brasilia, this most sparse of capital cities, flocked to the ground, the outlandish, unforgivable expense of the place (£400million by conservative estimates) briefly forgotten. The stadium, with its steep sides, shook with noise as Brazil's players warmed up, with one man especially at the centre of attentions.

And then came the anthem. Huge doesn't even begin to describe it. It may already be becoming passé in the eyes of the cynics, but really, if this kind of thing doesn't get you going you should probably be doing something else with your time.

Then began the Neymar show. For 70 or so minutes, the newly-blonde Barcelona star (I cannot be the only one mildly surprised that he's not changing his hairdo for every game) swayed and swerved. He drifted to the left before popping up in the middle, lifted the ball over the heads of defenders and wrong-footed them with backheels. It was the stuff of playground fantasy, and the crowd swooned with approval.

View gallery

.

[MATCH REPORT: CLINICAL BRAZIL THRASH CAMEROON]

End product wasn't lacking, either. His first, an all-too-rare early goal for his side in this tournament, was an assured finish that punctuated a shaky start. But the next act was the real showstopper.

Darting in from the flank, Neymar slalomed past his marker before lining up a shot. Everyone in the stadium, Cameroon goalkeeper Charles Itandje included, thought he was aiming for the far corner. But not Brazil's talisman, whose near-post finish was low and true.

It was a breathtaking goal, the kind that makes your brain – if not your mouth – string together a combination of swear words, capital letters and symbols. Sometimes, even when you think you have seen everything football has to offer, it can still take your breath away. Or rather, its best proponents can.

Neymar was asked after the game if he feels any special pressure given his status as Brazil's sole true star. His response could have been culled directly from one of his myriad advertising roles, but felt no less sincere for that.

“You don't feel pressure when you're realising the dreams that you've been chasing since childhood,” he said.

Yet it cannot have escaped the 22-year-old (he's still just 22!) that his dreams are not the only ones at play here. With displays like this, he is carrying the hopes of 200 million Brazilians on his shoulders in this World Cup.

It's quite a burden, but then Neymar is quite a player. He is, in many ways, the closest Brazil are likely to get to a true heir to Garrincha, full of intuition and cunning and street smarts. There is something fitting that he is bringing joy to the people in 2014.

Jack Lang is in Brazil and covering the World Cup finals for us - you can find him on Twitter @snap_kaka_pop

View Comments (16)
Fantasy Premier League