Neymar: Grading His Performance so Far for Brazil at the Olympics
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The 20-year-old from Santos FC is something of a rarity in this über-connected world of instant global media—a player whose talents so far have been more fabled than seen.
That was obviously going to change at London 2012. Overlooked by Dunga for Brazil's ill-fated World Cup 2010 squad, this Olympic tournament is Neymar's first major outing on the world stage.
More than that, it is the first real test of a player who has not shied away from assuming the mantle of Brazil's great hope to return the country to glory—not just in trophies, but in style as well.
Neymar's effectiveness will prove key to Brazil's chances of winning a first Olympic gold medal in football; his form will be an indication of how successful Brazil have been at returning to the beautiful game.
So far on both counts, Neymar has managed to live up to the hype, if not yet definitively justified it.
Amid upsets that saw favourites Spain sputter out of the tournament in the group stage, Brazil swept into the quarterfinals with relative ease, thanks in large part to Neymar's influence.
While new Chelsea signing Oscar made the greatest impression in Brazil's opener against Egypt, Neymar dominated against Belarus in the 3-1 win that guaranteed Brazil the top spot in Group C. The showstoppers were obviously his goal from a sublime free kick and the clever back-heel pass to set up Oscar for the third, but his more subtle assist for Pato's equalizer was clearly just as crucial.
This underlines an important point about Neymar—for all the flashiness (and there's no doubt he does sometimes try just a little too much trickery), his industry, energetic performances and shrewd reading of the game are equally vital. The fact that he started the third group match against New Zealand when players like Oscar, Hulk and Pato were rested shows the importance of Neymar to the team.
In Brazil's perfect group stage start, we've seen Neymar's solidity as well as his style. To make London 2012 his tournament to remember on a par with Pele's 1958 World Cup, Neymar will need more consistent performances like that against Belarus. Steady improvement in the knockout stages as competition intensifies, plus a couple inevitable touches of magic, should be enough to dispel any lingering doubts over the flamboyant forward's talent.
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