We might never know if he can do it on a wet Tuesday night in Stoke (Manchester United, Manchester City or Chelsea obviously didn’t think he could) but Neymar can definitely do it on a warm winter’s day in Brazil and Barcelona’s new star should lead his country to the Confederations Cup final by inspiring them to victory over Uruguay.
The £48 million man has been symbolic of the modern day Brazil squad: young, talented and with a sizeable reputation, but without the defining moment of performing on the big stage to fully justify the hype.
We can forget that now. Three goals in as many games, all of them utterly brilliant strikes, have not only gone a long way towards proving the doubters wrong (I include myself in that bracket, I admit) but also reigniting a nation’s hopes ahead of a massive 12 months for Brazil.
And if the Confederations Cup is being used by coach Luiz Felipe Scolari as a trial run ahead of the real thing next year, it is a case of so far, so good. Winning the World Cup next summer is the ultimate goal, but a good showing in this tournament was vital, and three wins out of three is raising confidence and lifting the spirits of a nation that is enduring problems off the pitch.
In Neymar, Brazil have the tournament’s stand-out individual and he can be the instigator of another win, this time against South American rivals Uruguay in Wednesday’s semi-final.
The hosts are 3/10 to book a place in the final inside 90 minutes, with the draw at 9/2 and a win for Luis Suarez and company a 15/2 chance, but I think this could be a comfortable win for Scolari’s men.
Even if Uruguay’s decent run looks good on paper and gives the impression their poor form might be over – they have won four out of the last five after winning just two of the previous 13 – for me they still aren’t playing very well.
Yes, their front three players can give any side problems, but Oscar Tabarez has struggled to accomodate them effectively in his team and I think Brazil will have too much for the Uruguayan back line, so the 4/5 that the Samba Boys win by at least two goals is the play.
Because make no mistake, Brazil are in the goals. They have scored in all ten games they have played under Scolari, and have hit 20 goals in their last seven matches.
Five of those games have been won – all of them by two goals or more. Brazil would expect to do that against Bolivia, but to win by at least two against France, Italy, Japan and Mexico is much harder to do and it seems that Scolari has found a lovely balance between defence and attack.
On top of that, five of Uruguay’s last six defeats have been by at least two goals – they tend to be a team that can throw in the towel if things don’t go well – and roared on by a huge crowd, I can only see a home win. Take the 4/5 that it is a comfortable one.