Neymar on Target to Break Pele's Brazil Record with 4-Goal Haul vs. Japan

Christopher Atkins@@chris_elasticoContributor IOctober 14, 2014

Brazil's Neymar celebrates after scoring the forth goal during an international friendly soccer match in Singapore, Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
Wong Maye-E/Associated Press

In scoring four goals against Japan in Singapore on Tuesday evening, Neymar hit the 40-goal mark for his country in just 58 astonishing appearances. Of all opponents, Japan appear to be a favourite of the Barcelona star, as he has scored against the Samurai Blue seven times across three games. However, they are far from alone in suffering at Neymar's clinical feet.

Neymar not only hit a new milestone with his latest haul but also took himself past halfway to matching Pele's leading total of 77 goals in the shirt of the Selecao. As Neymar is just 22, there is a real chance that one Santos icon will end up usurping the other.

Incredibly, he is already among the top five scorers in Brazil's international history, having passed Bebeto's tally of 39 in Singapore. Now just the great names of Pele, Ronaldo, Romario and Zico remain to be caught.

It was considered a major risk on Dunga's behalf to name Neymar as his new captain this summer, as the player was both young and unaccustomed to taking the armband. However, even at this early stage, he appears to be thriving in the role, aided by Dunga's counterattacking setup—a system entirely suited to Neymar's style of play.

Dunga has changed Brazil for the better, even if his manner of operating does not please those who would like to see the Selecao playing free-flowing, attacking football. It has proven highly effective across his two spells in charge, though.

Against Japan, there were further signs for optimism. Diego Tardelli, who grabbed the headlines with a brace in the weekend's 2-0 victory over Argentina, linked well with Neymar again, while Liverpool attacking midfielder Philippe Coutinho showed glimpses of what he can offer the side.

Even second-half substitutes Kaka and Robinho, both very much veterans at this point in their careers, enjoyed themselves and helped contribute to their colleague's haul. Neymar remained the game's leading light.

With 13 goals this calendar year, it is beginning to look a question of when rather than if Neymar catches Pele and puts himself at the very top of Brazil's scoring charts. Given that it's feasible he may still have a decade at international level ahead of him in which to score 38 goals, he could very well reach that target.

However, football is a cruel mistress, and little can be taken for granted. For a long time it had appeared as if Ronaldo would also sail past Pele's record over the course of his career, but he fell just short as injury blighted him from the age of 21 onward. There is a reason the record has stood untouched for so long.

With 40 goals at this point, though, Neymar has given himself every chance of succeeding and even going on to close in on a century of international goals. However, he will require good fortune with regard to injury and form to do so. He is, after all, only halfway to the total.

Wong Maye-E/Associated Press

Fixtures next month with Turkey and Austria will be his next opportunities to add more to his tally, while two Copa Americas in consecutive years coming up will also boost his chances of catching his idol sooner rather than later. Neymar could well hit 100 caps within the next three years, by the age of 25.

The cocksure youngster has faced many critics since he burst onto the scene in 2009 but has set about repeatedly proving his doubters wrong ever since. His international scoring record is frankly unbelievable and impossible to denigrate. He will finish his career regarded among his country's all-time greats.

World Cups will be his aim, but he will need to rely on the team around him to win such honours. Individual records are his for the taking, and he is doing his utmost to ensure he bags as many as possible in the years ahead.