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Knowing Neymar: Is Brazil's Great Hope Ready to Rule the 2014 World Cup?

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Sam PilgerFeatured ColumnistDecember 2, 2013

When Nike launched the Brazilian kit last week to be worn at the World Cup next summer Neymar was at the heart of the campaign pulling a confident and swaggering pose. 

Six months before the tournament starts, Neymar is the figure in which Brazil has invested their hopes and dreams of winning an unprecedented sixth World Cup.

Brazil have a strong side, and believe that in Neymar they have a special player, a potential great, who can be the crucial difference between them and the other leading nations.

Brazilian football always needs to have a new superstar, someone who might one day rival Pele and Ronaldo.

As soon as excited talk started to emerge from the youth ranks of Santos about a young Neymar, he was bestowed with this title as the next big thing.

This can act as a burden to some, but at Santos Neymar would fulfil that early promise, and score 136 goals in 225 games over the course of four successful years.

BARCELONA, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 23:  Neymar of FC Barcelona looks on during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Granda CF at Camp Nou on November 23, 2013 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
David Ramos/Getty Images

Since arriving at Barcelona last summer, Neymar has enjoyed a good start and provided further evidence that he is destined to enjoy a fine World Cup next year.

It was never likely he would immediately start to reproduce the Santos form that saw him score 56 goals in 70 games since the start of 2012.

However, despite still only being 21, and now playing in a new league on a different continent, he has settled in well at the Nou Camp.

Even though he has primarily been used on the left side of midfield rather than in the centre, Neymar has contributed 5 goals and 11 assists in 20 games so far this season.

The 2002 World Cup-winning Brazilian captain Cafu has already seen enough to declare to Brazilian channel SporTV (via The Daily Mirror), “Give him two years at Barcelona. Then Neymar will surpass Messi and Ronaldo.”

Neymar’s plan had originally been to stay with Santos until after the 2014 World Cup, but arriving a year early means he is now playing against better defenders, and playing alongside better players every week, and so adding something new to his game.

This was always going to be a transitional season for Neymar in Spain, but it is proving to be a good way to warm up for the World Cup, which could ultimately be crucial for Brazil.

International football is of course very different to club football, but Neymar has already shown he can deliver on the global stage.

Last summer in a dress rehearsal to the World Cup, Neymar was Brazil’s most influential player when they won the Confederations Cup.

After five spellbinding games on home soil, Neymar finished with a winner’s medal, the Golden ball as the player of the tournament and the bronze boot as the third-highest scorer.

The message from Neymar was clear: I’m ready for the World Cup.

In the first group game against Japan, Neymar, playing on the left side of a three-man attack, scored the opening goal in a 3-0 win before scoring again in a 2-0 win over Mexico.

Neymar scored a stunning free-kick in Brazil’s final group game, a 4-2 win over Italy.

After overcoming Uruguay in the semi-finals, Brazil faced Spain, arguably the greatest international side of all time, in the final and swept them aside with a convincing 3-0 win, which ended their 29-game unbeaten record.

Neymar reserved his very best for the final, claiming the man of the match award by rampaging through Spain’s normally reliable defence and scoring his side’s second goal. 

When the pressure was on, Neymar delivered. He can do it all over again next year too.

At the launch of Brazil’s new home kit, the Brazilian manager Luiz Felipe Scolari, as reported by The Daily Mail, said he liked it, but it needed a sixth star above the Brazilian crest.

Neymar is ready to help add that next year. 

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