Brazil played their final pre-FIFA Confederations Cup friendly in Porto Alegre against France on Sunday night, which ended in a 3-0 victory thanks to an improved second half.
Oscar, Hernanes and Lucas Moura, the latter from the penalty spot, scored the goals for the Selecao, but once more, many eyes were turned the way of Neymar to see if he would produce a big performance against European opposition.
Competitive matches might provide more of an insight into his impact in the future, but on this occasion, the now-Barcelona forward failed to have much of an effect on the match.
Position and Role in the Team
Neymar started on the left side of the Brazil attack, with Felipe Scolari opting for a fluid attack which ranged from a 4-3-3 to almost a lopsided 4-2-4 at times, with Oscar very mobile vertically. While Hulk on the right kept width to its maximum, hugging the touchline much of the time, Neymar was more able to drift in the channels and look to have an impact around the corner of the penalty area instead of heading for the touchline.
In the first half, with Brazil and France largely cancelling each other out, Neymar worked hard in tracking back and supporting his left-back, Marcelo.
Late in the first 45, he switched roles with Fred and played a central forward role, though this was only for a very short period.
After the break, Brazil were clearly the stronger side, and they had more of the ball in the opposition half, which should have seen Neymar have more of an effect on the game itself. Brazil's midfield shape changed once or twice with substitutes, but Neymar's role remained largely the same, a wide forward cutting infield at every opportunity.
Link-Up Play, Individual Acts, Final-Third Contribution
With Marcelo back in place at left-back, Neymar always had a willing runner bursting beyond him on the outside and was able to link up with him several times with simple balls to open up France down their right.
Often, Marcelo would break beyond Neymar in the build-up even before the latter received the ball; that kept Mathieu Debuchy pressed back high up the pitch and allowed the forward to pick up possession in space in deeper areas.
Considering Neymar has been questioned in his ability to have an impact on matches when he is quickly pressed by the opposition, this could have been a good way to get him on the ball with room ahead of him to move, but he couldn't make the most of these occasions.
A feature of Brazil's play in the first half was to play long diagonal passes looking for Hulk and Neymar, running on the diagonal.
One such instance saw Neymar win a free kick on the edge of the box, with Debuchy constantly tracking back and a little slow on the uptake to keep up with his movement.
A positive aspect of his game was his willingness to try different avenues in possession. It was not a case of simply cutting inside to shoot each time but instead of playing a quick, simple pass or trying to go on the outside and cross with his left foot.
One moment of individualism in the second half got the crowd going for a moment; a series of stepovers created a gap to run into, but Neymar's eventual shot was wild and wide.
His best moment in terms of final-third contribution came as he provided the assist for Hernanes to score Brazil's second goal; a first-time lay-off from Lucas Moura's cross was well weighted and allowed the onrushing midfielder to knock home from inside the box.
Set-Pieces and Shots
Free-kick deliveries were a complete write-off—both for Neymar himself and his team in general. Indeed, very little threat on goal was created by either France or Brazil from corners and free kicks, which were poor all game long.
The foul Neymar won after the early diagonal long pass seemed to set the tone for the game in that regard; Marcelo ran over the ball, leaving it for Neymar to strike, but he succeeded only in striking it low into the wall. Things never really picked up from that moment onward.
The forward hit another shot soon after which was blocked and then the effort from outside of the box which went well wide.
Neymar had those three shots in the game, equal highest with any other player, but he was way below his best in regards to finishing. There were two other instances when Neymar might have found the back of the net, firstly when a run from the left beat Debuchy to the far post, but he couldn't control the ball in mid-air and secondly when he had gone to a central-striking role at the end of the first half.
On that occasion, he stretched to reach a Marcelo cross at the far post but couldn't make contact from three yards out.
Neymar was way below his best, but the tempo of the game and the lack of competitive edge from both teams for a long time during the match did not help.
He worked hard and put in the effort in the first half when he was involved going forward and back, but after the break he should have had more of an effect as the space opened up with France leaving men forward for an equaliser.
Brazil looked to exploit the gaps on the counter attack during the second half, but Neymar was not one of the beneficiaries of that change in emphasis.
To be quite frank, in the second half, he was largely anonymous as Brazil grew in stature and confidence, with the midfield really taking control of proceedings.
With eight minutes left, he embarked on a run which summed up his night; switching his run to charge down the inside-right channel, he attempted to beat Joshua Guilavogui in a one-on-one situation but was beaten for power, pace and a general lack of ideas.
Neymar was substituted soon afterwards and his departure was met with boos from the crowds.
Boos for his withdrawal from the field? Or because of his performance?
It could have been either, but ultimately, in a friendly it won't mean too much. Neymar will start the Confederations Cup in the starting lineup for Brazil, but he needs to have more of an impact to warrant his place and to help his side open up teams who will present more of a threat and a defensive force than France were.
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