Neymar's Career Hinges on Success at 2014 World Cup

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistJune 10, 2013

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - MARCH 21:  Neymar of Brazil looks on during the international friendly match between Italy and Brazil on March 21, 2013 in Geneva, Switzerland.  (Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images)
Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

Don't worry, Neymar. You'll just have to carry the hopes and dreams of about 190 million Brazilians.

No player will be under the microscope more at the 2014 World Cup than Neymar. The 21-year-old striker has been the most hyped player in the world, and now he'll finally have the opportunity to play abroad after moving to Barcelona.

The move couldn't have come at a better time, either. It looked like the player was going to stay in Brazil until after the World Cup. That would have been a questionable move as Neymar would have been depriving himself of playing in a top league before the most important tournament of his career.

The Brasileirão is a good league. It became apparent, though, that he had done everything he possibly could have there. The more he stayed, the more his career would stagnate.

Performance at a World Cup can make or break a player's career, no matter what they've done with their clubs.

Some people still knock Lionel Messi for his failure to win with Argentina. There's no way Neymar would be able to escape criticism should he fail to deliver in a year's time.

It would be one thing if the 2014 World Cup was being held in any other country. Fortunately, or unfortunately, it's being held in Brazil. Brazilian fans' expectations are through the roof with every tournament. Those expectations will be at their peak with the competition on home soil. Anything less than a win is a disappointment.

This is a country where wins are celebrated but losses can be remembered for decades. No match has cast a greater shadow on Brazil's collective football consciousness than the defeat to Uruguay at the 1950 World Cup at the Maracana. It caused a ripple effect that can probably still be felt today.

Fair or unfair, the success or failures of Brazil at the World Cup will carry with Neymar his entire career.

If Brazil wins the competition, he'll be hailed as a national hero. He will have also justified all the hype and proven his doubters wrong.

Look at what kind of impact Ronaldo's showing at the 1998 World Cup had on his career. He was only 21 years old at the time, but he and Brazil's performance helped to captivate the entire world and thrust his career into the stratosphere.

Granted, Ronaldo had already proven himself at PSV and Barcelona. Neymar will have a similar career trajectory with a memorable World Cup.

If Brazil bombs out like they did in 2006 and 2010, Neymar will forever be remembered as the star who failed to deliver when the World Cup was in his home country.

He'll be getting it from all sides.

His countrymen will never let him live down the loss until he brings home a World Cup. Even in the event that would happen, fans will probably still complain it wouldn't have been as sweet as a win in 2014. Then his critics will feel emboldened that this tricky striker does not have the makeup to become one of the world's best players.

The margin for error is minute, but the reward for Neymar is monumental.