Get your Neymar jerseys now. This kid will be the star of the Olympics, and will win the World Cup for Brazil in 2014. He’s going to win the Golden Boot and will be vaulted to legendary status. Last night’s friendly against the United States reminded the rest of the world that Brazil can easily return to the top of the class after a disappointing show in South Africa. Disappointing for Brazil, that is. It’s admittedly early to be predicting the 2014 champions, but after the clinic Brazil put on against the U.S., Brazilians should have high hopes for hoisting the ugliest trophy in sports.
New coach Mano Menezes injected youth into the starting lineup and returned to the Brazilian style of play most soccer fans know and love. As commentator and former U.S. player John Harkes said, the difference between the Brazilians and Americans is that Brazilians know what they’re going to do with the ball before they receive it. When you grow up playing, if your coach didn’t tell you that, he or she wasn’t a good coach. It’s easier said than done, which is why you see the American professionals struggling to handle the ball against teams that apply high pressure.
Brazilians returned to the quick, creative style of play fans missed in South Africa. Former coach Dunga, fired after his squad lost to the Netherlands in the quarters, had a “defense wins championships” mindset and sucked the fun out of Brazilian soccer. But last night against a lifeless American squad, Brazil moved the ball with ease and precision. Brazil’s offense is just that good. Their defense can be average and it won’t matter.
It was reminiscent of Brazil from the past. When Pele, Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos and Ronaldinho played for Brazil, they smiled all the time. When they beat players, when they missed opportunities, even when the opposition fouled them. Because they just knew they were better. That’s what went down last night. Brazil just knew.
Back to Neymar. There’s other young talent on Brazil’s roster worth mentioning, but Neymar was the player of the night. He made the U.S defense look silly. He’s unselfish, has quick feet, is strong on the ball (especially given how skinny he is) and he can finish. And he’s 18-years-old. This is not a Freddy Adu wishful thinking scenario; this kid is the real deal. If he adds a bit of muscle and stays healthy, he’s going to be a stud in 2014.
14,000 Brazilians, led by Pele, signed a petition for Neymar to be on the 2010 roster. He’s already a household name in Brazil and he’s going to be known across the globe in a few years. This isn’t prophetic. Anyone who watched the game, even if they don’t know a lick about soccer, can see this. But now you can say, “Hey I read about that guy on the Whiskey and Car Keys blog years ago.”