Friday, June 27, 2014, 22:49
Brazil at Neymar's feet: 'More important than Messi'

 Brazil at Neymar's feet: 'More important than Messi'
Neymar (Photo by DPA)

TERESOPOLIS, Brazil - To take personal control of an irregular team and lead it to victory, as Lionel Messi did in Argentina's first two matches at the World Cup, is something remarkable.

But to do this aged just 22, in his first World Cup - as Neymar has done for Brazil in three matches now - is even more astonishing.

With his talent, fighting spirit and eye for goal, Neymar was able to ameliorate many of Brazil's mistakes and limitations in Group A.

Thanks to Neymar's ability to withstand the pressure of playing his first World Cup at home, Brazil were able to finish top of the group and qualify for the round of 16.

Monday's 4-1 destruction of hapless Cameroon was practically all his own work. The same as in the debut 3-1 defeat of Croatia, Neymar set Brazil on their way by scoring the first two goals.  

The standing ovation he received from the 70,000 crowd in Brasilia, when he was taken off 16 from time, left no room at all for doubts: Brazilian football has a new idol, a youngster who is impressing not only the watching world but also his own team-mates.

"If Neymar made it rain on the pitch, I wouldn't be surprised. In fact, I would see it as something almost normal, because I know exactly what he is capable of," defender David Luiz told dpa.

"Neymar is a different player from the rest, and it is he who makes the difference in our favor. For my money, he is more important to Brazil even than Messi is to Argentina," winger Bernard told dpa.

Another strong admirer of Neymar is his Barcelona colleague Dani Alves, who says he expected the youngster to triumph at the World Cup.

"His success does not surprise me. Neymar is made to play football. He does not think about whether he is playing at the World Cup or not, he just wants to be happy and enjoy himself. This is why he makes the difference," Alves said.

The "Golden Boy", as he is known in Brazil, is also the favorite son of coach Luiz Felipe Scolari.

It was under the orders of "Felipao" that Neymar was able to break his goalless jink of 842 minutes at last year's Confederations Cup - and then lead the team to the trophy.

Since then, Neymar has been the main reference point of the "Selecao".

"Just as Argentina depends on Messi, we depend on Neymar. This is normal. There are players who are different from the others, who have a higher level. And these are the players who make all the difference," said "Felipao".

Neymar has banged in eight goals in his last eight competitive games for Brazil - four at the Confederations Cup and four at the World Cup so far - and has taken the man-of-the-match award on seven occasions.

None of these achievements seems to have affected Neymar, who claimed Monday that playing the World Cup at home fans is no source of pleasure.

"There is no pressure if you can make your dream come true. Nowadays I am playing in matches that I have dreamed about. What I want is to help us to reach the final in Maracana, with all my friends and family watching - and that we emerge as champions," he said.

Brazil will continue to bet on Neymar's talent in the round of 16 clash against Chile Saturday.

"Neymar is the star of our team, he is the player that can decide matches in our favor," said midfielder Ramires Tuesday.