Even if Neymar isn’t able to play, his spirit has hovered over Brazil national team games for a number of years. So also at the World Cup in Qatar. In the run-up to the second group game against Switzerland, Neymar was an issue because fans and experts were wondering how coach Tite would fill the gap that had arisen. The 30-year-old leader of the Selecao injured his right ankle so badly in the opening win against Serbia (2-0) that he is out of the preliminary round of the tournament. The Brazilians struggled without their superstar, but in the end they narrowly defeated the Swiss in Group G 1-0 (0-0). Midfielder Casemiro (83rd) scored the goal of the day. This puts Brazil in the round of 16 early.
Another discussion about Neymar, however, fueled Rapinha. The national team-mate shared a tweet on Instagram after the match against the Serbs, which makes a statement about how the playmaker’s reputation is represented by a not exactly small part of football lovers in his homeland. Because there was ridicule and malice when it turned out that Neymar was suffering from an injury again at a World Cup. “Argentine fans worship Messi like a god. Portuguese fans treat Ronaldo like a king. Brazilian fans long for Neymar to break his leg.” Not exactly charming.
Much criticism of Neymar
In 2014, at the tournament in Brazil, Neymar fractured a vertebra in the World Cup quarter-finals against Colombia and had to pass against Germany. There was a historic 7-1 win for the DFB team in the Brazilian football temple of Maracana. In 2018, at the World Cup in Russia, Neymar suffered from fitness problems, which is one of the reasons why the Brazilians were eliminated early in the quarterfinals by Belgium.
The many and varied reactions to Neymar’s renewed injury in Qatar on social media shows that there are many people who are extremely critical of the superstar, who once moved from Barcelona to Paris for the record transfer fee of 222 million euros. On the one hand, there are sporting reasons.
Neymar’s extremely self-confident – often to the point of arrogance – appearance on the playing fields of this world does not exactly cause sympathy values. In addition, his flying performances with little or no contact and his subsequent theatrics have been notorious among opponents and their fans for years.
However, the sporting facts speak for Neymar. The attacking player has scored 75 goals for his country in 122 international matches. That leaves him two goals short of drawing level with the country’s greatest footballing icon, Pelé. However, the now 82-year-old scored his 77 goals in just 92 games.
And then there is the political level of criticism and protest against Neymar. Before this World Cup tournament, he stated that he would dedicate his first goal at this World Cup tournament to President Jair Bolsonaro, who was recently voted out of office in Brazil – who is considered to be right-wing extremist and notorious as a populist.
Neymar as a point of discussion
This statement will not have gone down particularly well with the majority of the Brazilian people, who are currently very divided in their political stance. Did he want to signal support for the part of the Brazilians who still do not recognize Bolsonaro’s election defeat?
Many people will continue to rub shoulders with Neymar, and many discussions will still be held about him. He’s so often an artist on the pitch, but also an extroverted loner on and off the field. In most cases, however, the game of the Brazilian national team gets better with him.