Barcelona Forward Neymar's Top 6 Brazil Moments
Over the shoulders of Neymar is the tremendous weight of leading the five-time World Cup champion to close the only wound that Brazil still isn’t able to heal from: not lifting the trophy in front of its own people.
In the last four years, the 22-year-old forward has been growing up in the best place to learn and understand the legendary jersey he is going to wear this summer: the Brazilian National team. Mano Menezes, and now Luiz Felipe Scolari, have trusted the talented Neymar to be the main attacking weapon, the one responsible for carrying the Jogo Bonito in the current Brazil squad.
Neymar has definitely evolved with the Brazilian senior team since his debut back in 2010. The Barcelona striker has shown that he is up to the task and has no fear of being the chosen one to erase the “tragedy” of 1950, especially after a magnificent performance during last year's Confederations Cup.
Here are six of Neymar’s most brilliant moments with the Canarinha.
Neymar ‘Scotch’ Toast with Ronaldo
His first brace ever with Brazil came in a friendly against Scotland back in 2011. It was also the day that in the stands as an honorary invitee, Neymar’s predecessor was watching him, a recently retired Ronaldo Nazario.
Neymar had already scored his first senior goal in a friendly against the USMNT in 2010, but this was truly his first great performance. He managed to score the first goal perfectly aiming his shot to the far post to beat the Scottish goalie.
Later on, the then 18-year-old wasn’t afraid to try his moves in the box, which led to a penalty kick. He then took the responsibility of taking the shot and scoring. Yes, it was only a friendly, but if you play for Brazil, it is not every day that a teenager is going to be given the right to take a penalty.
Hierarchies didn’t seem to apply for Neymar back then, so during the World Cup, a penalty awarded to Brazil will likely be up to him to transform it into a goal.
Brace Against Ecuador to Advance to Copa America’s Quarterfinals
Brazil had struggled in the first two group-stage matches of Copa America 2011, where it had only been able to draw, and couldn’t afford to lose against Ecuador on the last group game.
In its best performance and only win of the tournament, Neymar managed to secure his second brace with the Verde Amarela, scoring in key moments. His second goal sealed the deal for Menezes’ boys and killed any Ecuadorian comeback hopes, as Brazil went on to take a definitive 4-2 lead.
Both of his goals came by positioning himself in the right place at the right moment to score what looked like cool, easy finishes.
Impressing at Confederations Cup Debut
With Scolari now in charge of Brazil, Neymar was given the arguably most prestigious jersey to wear in his second major international tournament: number 10.
In the opening game of the 2013 Confederations Cup, Brazil didn’t hesitate to show what it was planning to do during the cup: run over anyone in its way. And to show it, Neymar decided to strike a shot from outside the box into the upper 90 on only the third minute of the game. That goal ended up being one of the best of the tournament.
Brazil ended up beating Japan, 3-0, and Neymar took an important part on the buildup of the second goal as well. It was definitely not a bad start for the Santos homegrown when wearing the jersey that Pele immortalized decades ago.
Magical Revenge Against Mexico
During London 2012, Neymar wasn’t able to change Brazil’s faith in the Olympic Games, as Mexico beat it 2-1 in the final. However, he took revenge one year later in the second group-stage game of the Confederations Cup against the CONCACAF champions.
Just like he had done against Japan in the opening game, Neymar struck early with a beautiful goal, this time with a left-footed volley that Jesus Corona couldn’t save. That goal itself could easily have been the highlight of the night, but Neymar was saving the best for last.
Brazil ended up winning, 2-0, and the books will say that Jo scored the second goal, but it really should have been given to Neymar. The Brazilian jewel, recently signed by Barcelona at the time, turned on the magic in his feet to beat two Mexican defenders with a meg and then decided to share the glory with Jo.
The game against Mexico was played in Fortaleza and was the second one in the cup for Brazil, exactly the same scenario of next June 17. Will Neymar be able to do the same?
Humiliating the World Champion
In his first ever final with the senior team, Neymar did not disappoint against the world champion Spain and gave Brazil its third Confederations Cup title in a row with a convincing 3-0 victory.
Neymar scored the second goal, blasting a left-footed shot past Iker Casillas and into the net after a combination with Oscar. The goal celebration denoted the romance that Neymar is currently living with the Brazilian fans, who gladly embraced him when he jumped into the stands.
Not only did Neymar win the Confederations, but he was also awarded the tournament’s Golden Ball and the Bronze Boot for his four goals.
Hat Trick to Start 2014
When Brazil played a friendly against South Africa in the only FIFA match day at the beginning of 2014, Neymar was already being questioned in Europe for more than just what was going on in the pitch, but that didn’t seem to affect his shape with the national team.
Neymar scored his second hat trick with Brazil and his first playing out of South American soil. Brazil went on to beat South Africa, 5-0, in Johannesburg. Maybe Dunga should have listened to those who suggested he include Neymar in his final roster for the 2010 World Cup.
The end of his first season in Europe wasn’t what Neymar expected, but all that can be forgiven and even forgotten by his Brazilian fans if he is able to show what he has demonstrated through the last four years at the international level.