As the World Cup draws to a close and teams, players, coaches, pundits & fans alike reflect on what was and what could have been, we at Outside of the Boot under our Talent Radar feature recognise the best young players at the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
The eligibility criteria for this list are all those players who were 21 and below at the start of the 2013/14 season (taken as June 1st 2013).
What was expected of him? Frankly, we chuckle every time Neymar pops up on #TalentRadar because, well, he’s Neymar. He isn’t expected to be one of Outside of the Boot’s scouted players that we keep an eye on. Neymar’s talent is well known and despite his young age, he was expected to carry this Brazil team forward at the World Cup played in their own backyard.
How did he perform? The World Cup opener comprised of Croatia facing hosts, Brazil. Neymar was positioned right behind Fred, with Hulk to the left and Oscar to the right. The source of creativity from this Brazil side lay more on him than his teammates. After going behind via a Marcelo own goal, Brazil had an uphill task against a Croatian side that refused to roll over easily. Up stepped Neymar to face the challenge. With Oscar winning the ball in midfield, he slipped it to Neymar who skipped past the incoming challenge before steadying himself and firing a shot on goal resulting in Brazil’s first goal of the tournament. The second half saw a controversial penalty given in Brazil’s favour, which Neymar slotted home with ease for his second of the night. The Man of the Match laurels were then given to the Barca man to cap a good start to the tournament.
Brazil’s second game was against Mexico. Neymar started on the left side of the three that lay behind Fred. Neymar’s aerial ability was seen in the first half when he met an excellent cross from Barca team mate Dani Alves. Neymar nodded the ball towards the goal, only to be denied by Man of the Match, Ochoa. The second half saw Neymar put in a good effort once again denied by the Mexican goalkeeper. Neymar received an inbound cross from the left, controlled it and took a shot on the half volley. The ball, goal bound for certain, was deviated from its path by the brilliant Ochoa.
The next match against Cameroon saw Neymar pick up his second Man of the Match award. With Gustavo winning the ball on the left flank and passing it to Neymar, the former Santos star opened up his body and placed the ball out of the keeper’s reach and into the back of the net. He then scored his second of the match and fourth of the tournament after picking up a clearance from Marcelo, running into space and wrong-footed the keeper with his low shot. A second half free kick, goal bound, was a good effort too but was stopped by Itandje’s finger tips. The game saw Neymar enjoy himself with deft taps and touches, creating space and in general tormenting the Cameroon XI.
The host nation’s Round of 16 game saw them face a tough Chile side. Neymar was once again deployed on the left flank. Neymar was involved in Brazil’s opening and only goal for the game. An in-swinging corner from the left was eventually met by Luiz who placed it in the back of the net. A few minutes later saw a lively Neymar once again troubling the Chile defence. The game saw efforts fly in from Brazil and quite a few of them involved Neymar. A goal bound header which was deflected wide and saves from Bravo on multiple occasions stopped him from getting his second of the match. The match was decided on penalties, with Neymar accurate from the spot.
Colombia would eventually turn out to be Neymar’s last opponents of the tournament. The game saw Colombia sit back more than they would like and Brazil press with a sign of intent. A free kick taken by Neymar was really close to being a goal. Once again, Neymar’s delivery from a set piece saw Brazil benefit, this time with Thiago Silva finding the goal near the back post. A game that saw a lot of fierce tackles and brutal clashes was just a build up to what happened next to Brazil’s star man. Zuniga’s leaping motion saw his knee being driven into the back of Neymar while attempting to win a header. Neymar fell to the floor in pain and later it was learned that he had fractured a vertebra. That spelled the end of the match and end of Neymar’s World Cup dreams.
The next two games saw Brazil get humiliated by Germany and Holland. To say that Neymar’s absence resulted in this would be ignorant. The fact that the rest of the Brazil squad had performed far below their standards through out the tournament has to be recognized.
Neymar’s potential and ability is well known. His capability to play under pressure at a big stage, with the weight of the whole country’s expectation on him was witnessed, a job he frankly did very well considering how the rest of the Brazil squad fared.
More from Talent Radar: Neymar ranked #2 in our 25 Young players to Watch at the FIFA World Cup. He also featured in our La Liga 2013/14 Youngsters Team of the Season. He was adjudged to be the Talent Radar Best Young Player in our Group A review and made both the Best XI and Best Young XI in our World Cup awards. Scout Report? I don’t think he needs one although you could be interested in a brief analysis of his performance against Croatia.
What does the future hold for him in the national team? Neymar’s brilliance will most certain inscribe him as a part of the Brazil squad for many years to come. With the backlash that the current Brazil squad is facing after the humiliating matches against Germany and Holland, there is bound to be a major shake up but we can say for certain that Neymar shall and will remain an integral part of the new and changed Brazil outfit.
Other players in the list: #10 Memphis Depay | #9 Ahmed Musa | #8 Xherdan Shaqiri | #7 Paul Pogba | #6 Kevin De Bruyne | #5 Joel Campbell | #4 Ricardo Rodriguez | #3 Raphael Varane | #1 James Rodriguez
Razim Refai is a co-founder and editor of Outside of the Boot.
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