Assessing Neymar's Performance for Barcelona vs. Thailand
Neymar graced the Camp Nou for his home debut in the 2 August Joan Gamper Trophy thrashing of Santos, and with little time to breathe between appearances, the Brazilian joined the rest of Barcelona's squad for a whistle-stop tour of Asia.
Gerardo Martino handed the €55 million man his first start in the game against Thailand XI. La Blaugrana supporters witnessed around 15 minutes of the much-anticipated Neymar/Lionel Messi combination in the 8-0 walloping of Santos, so this preseason friendly would see the South American favourites start together for the very first time.
How would Neymar fit in alongside his Argentinian colleague?
He started to the left of a three-pronged attack, with Messi in the centre and Pedro coming in from the right. Barca fans may have been itching to see more of Alexis Sanchez after a terrific performance in the Gamper match, but for the first half, had to make do with three players who are likely to define the coming La Liga season.
It didn’t take long for Barcelona to thrust their Thai opponents to the sword. Despite an energetic and committed opening from the Bangkok hosts, Neymar directed a low Cesc Fabregas cross beyond the goalkeeper with just 13 minutes on the clock.
Incisive work from Messi set the move rolling, and with Fabregas’ accurate pass, Neymar was gifted an easy finish. The home side tried their utmost to halt Barcelona’s attack from here on in, but the Spanish champions quickly settled into a breakneck speed that favoured cut-throat attacking moves alongside the retention of possession.
Thailand offered little physical resistance, but halted Neymar with a barge to the back after quarter of an hour.
Barca added two more goals in the next five minutes, with Messi firing home a penalty and Pedro slamming a ferocious shot past Sinthaweechai Hathairattanakool from inside the box. Neymar’s dart towards the centre started the move for Barca’s third, with some excellent work from Messi eventually landing at the feet of Pedro, who brilliantly thrashed the ball into an overworked net.
Neymar continued to take up positions towards the left of the box and may have felt he deserved a penalty during the match. He fell to the ground easily in the opening minutes, but was perhaps a tad unlucky to not receive a spot-kick later in the half.
The starlet chested Messi’s looping ball inside the area and was pushed to the ground by a Thai defence that already looked tired at this stage. Neymar let his weight drop easily, though contact was made.
Further goals from Messi and Pedro, plus a consolation penalty from Teerasil Dangda, saw Martino’s men enter the break with a 5-1 lead.
Neymar was one of eight players hauled off during the interval. The discovery of an anaemia disorder, as reported by John Drayton of the Daily Mail, may have had an impact on the decision. It’s more likely the new boss wanted to give others a run, with players such as Sanchez, Andres Iniesta and Xavi coming into play.
Barcelona fans can take great heart from Neymar’s first start for the club. As with his performance against Santos, he once again showed great willingness to fit into the team's era-defining style of play.
Although one stunning dribble got the crowd wooing inside the first five minutes, Neymar played thoughtfully and without the need to set the world alight with a continuous showing of mesmerising skill.
As with every other player at the Camp Nou, Neymar opted to fulfill simple duties before turning on the fireworks. Thai bodies put him under great pressure when receiving the ball—something he will have to get used to in Spain—but his short passing and ability to cut inside aided Barca’s quest to take control.
While one or two crosses failed to find their mark, Neymar is going about his European career in the right way. The player should be applauded for his determination to slot in seamlessly, a feat that will only be achieved by putting individual flair on the back burner.
Neymar’s 45 minutes on the pitch saw a number of brilliant links with Messi and Pedro, suggesting it won’t be long before he feels totally comfortable and his explosiveness begins to reappear.
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