Sports / Sports latest news

Water off a duck's back

By Agencies in Brasia (China Daily) Updated: 2014-06-25 07:04

Water off a duck's back

Star Neymar feeling no pressure under harsh spotlight at home

Neymar's two-goal performance against Cameroon on Monday made it hard to believe that barely one year ago there were serious doubts as to whether he was mature enough to lead Brazil's challenge for a sixth World Cup.

Until last year's Confederations Cup, Neymar was still playing his domestic soccer in Brazil and had struggled in his rare outings against European teams.

With nearly a dozen sponsorship contracts to his name, a legion of adoring fans and the beach on his doorstep, there were worries Neymar had taken the soft option by staying with Santos in Brazil.

Europeans wondered what all the fuss was about and there were question marks over whether he could handle the enormous pressure of playing for Brazil in a World Cup on home soil.

One year on, three games and four goals into the World Cup, Neymar has shown that it is all water off a duck's back.

On Monday, he produced another sparkling performance, including two superbly-taken first-half goals, to help Brazil beat Cameroon 4-1 and reach the last 16.

There was a sense of anticipation and danger every time he got the ball and plenty of glimpses of the famous tricks which have led to complaints of show-boating in the past.

He sent the crowd into raptures by nonchalantly flicking the ball over a bemused Cameroon defender and tried to emulate former Mexico forward Cuauhtemoc Blanco's trick of hopping past a defender with the ball between his ankles.

"I don't feel any pressure," Neymar said after winning the man-of-the-match award.

"I've always said there is no pressure when you are fulfilling a dream. This is something I have dreamed about since I was young, I've dreamed all my life about playing in matches like this."

Two-goal Neymar hailed Brazil's victory over Cameroon as the host's "best performance yet".

"The most important thing was the team and I think this was our best performance," said the 22-year-old after receiving his award at the National Stadium in Brasilia.

"Not because of the number of goals we scored but because of how we played, pressing our opponents in the way we wanted to. Congratulations to everyone.

"We are on the right track and are growing all the time as we get closer to making our dream come true."

Brazil's win saw it finish top of Group A on goal difference from Mexico and took it through to a last-16 tie against Chile on Saturday in Belo Horizonte.

"I think it will be a very difficult match. Everyone who is watching the World Cup knows that there are no weak teams in the competition," said Neymar, who has now scored four goals in his first three World Cup matches, equaling a feat achieved by his great predecessor Pele.

"Everybody is at the same level. Football is becoming harder and harder so we will be up against very strong opposition."

Neymar's confidence was boosted with an outstanding performance in last year's Confederations Cup, which Brazil won, and he then took the plunge by making the move to Europe with his transfer to Barcelona.

His first season in Spain had highs and lows and was punctuated by two injuries, although they may have been a blessing as they reduced excessive expectations and meant he did not arrive at the World Cup exhausted.

Far from show-boating, coach Luiz Felipe Scolari praised Neymar for his team spirit and dedication to the less glamorous parts of the game, such as tracking back and marking the opposition's forwards.

"He is very participative, I have said it many times," Scolari said, adding that much of the credit should go to Muricy Ramalho, Neymar's former coach at Santos.

"Muricy drilled it into him that he must sometimes stop creating and take part in marking when the opposition has the ball, and this is something that people don't always see," Scolari said.

Scolari also shrugged off suggestions Brazil may have become over-dependent on the 22-year-old.

"Argentina depend on Messi and others have special players, this is normal," he said. "Some players are different and they make the difference to any team, not just Brazil."


Juventus star Arturo Vidal said on Monday Chile was ready to realize its "dream" by overturning its jinx against five-time champion Brazil in the World Cup last 16.

Vidal, who is recovering from injury and is on a yellow card, was rested for the 2-0 loss to the Netherlands which left Chile second in Group B and facing a knockout match with Brazil.

But he said he would certainly play in Saturday's game in Belo Horizonte as Chile aims to reverse World Cup last-16 defeats to Brazil in 1998 and 2010.

"I'll play the round of 16 match on Saturday. I wouldn't miss it for the world," he said. "Brazil has often been Chile's nemesis but football changes, new generations come and new players appear."

Despite Monday's defeat, confidence is high for Chile after it beat reigning world champion Spain to reach the second round.

"Beating Brazil? That's our dream. Chile can create a surprise. We've beaten the world champions, so we can beat Brazil," said Vidal.

 Water off a duck's back

Neymar (right) celebrates after scoring during Brazil's Group A win over Cameroon at the Mane Garrincha stadium in Brasilia on Monday. Pedro Ugarte / Agence France-presse

(China Daily 06/25/2014 page24)

Most Popular
What's Hot