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27th Jun 2018

World Cup Comments: Brazil’s indulgence of Neymar will cost them as the World Cup progresses

Another Brazilian player should be the main man in the team

Robert Redmond

Ahead of the World Cup, the talk was that Brazil were much changed from the team that suffered a meltdown in the last tournament four years ago

On home soil, Brazil collapsed against Germany, losing 7-1 in Belo Horizonte in the World Cup semi-final. Four years later, they came into the tournament as the form team. They cruised through South American qualifying after appointing Tite as manager in June 2016.

On the evidence of their games at the World Cup so far, Brazil are a better side than the team that hacked their way through the 2014 World Cup, certainly more talented. But one aspect that seems as prevalent now as it was four years ago is the team’s indulgence of Neymar.

They have made it through the group stages, and their performance against Serbia was their best of the competition so far, but there are still questions about their most high profile player.

Just like at PSG, Neymar appears to have the freedom to do what he wants in the Brazil team.

So far in Russia, he has dropped deep, slowed down play and ignored passing options. Even against Serbia, his best performance of the tournament so far, he lacked discipline and wasn’t Brazil’s best player.

According to Gary Neville, Neymar was “20 yards too deep” during the first half.

He had more touches of the ball than any of his teammates (113). The ball was always passed to him, regardless of whether it was the right pass or not.

Neymar has been selfish in possession, his decision making has been questionable at times and he has seemed intent on trying to humiliate his opponents. This was especially the case against Switzerland in Brazil’s opening game.

Against defences that sit deep, as teams inevitably do against Brazil, Neymar insistence on playing this way could become counter-productive in tighter games.

In the match against Switzerland, the 26-year-old slowed the play down to walking pace at times, ignoring his teammates to run down blind alleys and draw fouls from opponents.

At the tournament so far, he has often selected the selfish option. He had the chance to break the deadlock against Costa Rica and went for a spectacular curling effort into the top corner.

Neymar had a teammate to his left, he had space to run into and was free through on goal. He went for the most difficult and selfish option, an indulgent act by a player who does what he wants.

“He’s like a little brother to me. I try to look after him,” Thiago Silva told reporters following the win over Costa Rica last Friday.

“Today he disappointed me because he insulted me really badly when I returned the ball. He was right in that they had really got stuck into him, but we weren’t going to lose the game because of that one ball.”

Neymar has insulted his teammate and referees. He disrespects his opponents and elevates his own goals and personal narrative above all others. Coutinho’s goal won the game against Costa Rica, but Neymar dropped to the ground, cried and hogged the attention.

After scoring the most meaningless goal of the tournament – the second goal in the final minute of stoppage time against a team about to be eliminated – Neymar focused on his own narrative. Everyone and everything else is a prop in the Neymar show, and Brazil continue to indulge him.

As the tournament goes on, they will become more reliant on a player who’s petulance makes him a potential liability in high-pressure games. Serbia couldn’t exploit this on Wednesday night but other sides may as the World Cup progresses, starting with Mexico on Monday.

On current form, Brazil’s best player is Coutinho.

The Barcelona midfielder has been excellent at the tournament so far.

He scored their only goal of the game against Switzerland, he got the decisive goal against Costa Rica and set up their first goal against Serbia with a brilliant lofted pass to Paulinho.

Coutinho is Brazi’s most effective player. He doesn’t slow play down, he doesn’t dive or roll around and he plays for the team, not himself. However, Brazil’s hopes still rest on Neymar, and that could prove fatal when the tournament gets into the later stages.