Heir apparent to Pelé, Neymar is only two goals away from the record of the “King” in the Brazilian selection. But to become his worthy successor in Qatar, “Ney” must guide Brazil to a sixth title at the 2022 World Cup, a conquest which begins Thursday against Serbia (9:00 p.m.). Since his recruitment by the Qatari owners of Paris SG in 2017 for the record sum of 222 M EUR, the attacker with crazy arabesques has become accustomed to coming to an internship in the small Gulf emirate.
And it is in Doha, under the gold of the Lusail stadium where the Brazilians start on Thursday evening, and where they hope to return on December 18 for the final, that the little prince of “futebol” hopes to finally crown the planetary crown.
By avoiding committing the same misstep inaugural as the Argentina of his friend Lionel Messi, Tuesday against Saudi Arabia (2-1) on the same lawn. Sometimes criticized for his dilettanteism, Neymar put the odds on his side, signing a royal start to the season with PSG (11 goals and 9 assists in 14 Ligue 1 matches). “I feel good physically, I’m happy, I’m having a very happy time at the club, so I feel well prepared,” the striker said in a recent interview with British daily The Telegraph.
Enough to make him, at 30, the undisputed leader of the Seleçao, five-time winner of the World Cup (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002) and solidly rebuilt by coach Tite. In the country of Pelé, the supporters hope that, this time, Brazil will finally obtain its “hexacampeonato” (6th trophy) after twenty years of scarcity, led by Neymar.
He only has a Confederations Cup in 2013 and an Olympic gold medal in 2016, at home. It would be a way to close the gaping wound opened after the humiliation suffered in the semi-finals of the 2014 World Cup, at home, against Germany (7-1 defeat), while the N.10 was injured in the previous round. . “We have a wonderful history but that requires a certain degree of pressure,” Tite admitted on Tuesday.
“Brazil are passionate about football. We are under pressure but we have to take advantage of that because dreaming is part of our life.” of goals from Pelé (82 years old): “Ney” has 75 units, two lengths from the 77 goals in selection attributed to the legendary striker, winner of three World Cups (even if the latter, also counting friendly matches for Brazil played against clubs, claims 95). This total of 77 could be equaled from the group stage. Brazil are the scarecrow in Group G against Cameroon, Switzerland and Serbia, their first opponent on Thursday, led by a formidable attacking duo Vlahovic-Mitrovic.
“With Neymar in good shape, we have a very good chance of winning the World Cup, because he is a player who really makes the difference on the pitch,” former international defender Cafu, captain of the club, confirmed to AFP. 2002 world champions.
Neymar did not win unanimous support in Brazil when he took a stand in the recent presidential election in favor of the outgoing far-right president Jair Bolsonaro, finally defeated, to whom he had promised to dedicate his first World Cup goal. But he also recorded good news on the extra-sporting level with the abandonment of the charges against him in a trial in Spain around possible irregularities concerning his transfer in 2013 to Barcelona.
How to approach the Mondial-2022 with a freer spirit? Neymar will not be able to extract himself from strong pressure anyway, symbolized by the crowd of journalists who attend Seleçao training and press conferences every day at the Grand Hamad Stadium in Doha. “What is good is that he remains humble”, launched Tuesday Thiago Silva, his former teammate at Paris SG, who will wear the captain’s armband for the occasion. “We will share the responsibilities with him, so as to help him play better.”