World Cup 2014: Neymar hoping to emulate the greats as Brazil prepare to take on Croatia

There is much pressure on the Barcelona striker's shoulders, but you wouldn't know it

Felipe Scolari smiled widely, before reaching to give Neymar a little smack. The young forward had been talking about the greats of Brazil’s recent past, and how he wants to emulate the likes of Romario and - above all - Ronaldo at this World Cup.

LIVE: Follow the latest events from Brazil v Croatia and the Opening Ceremony

It was also a sudden break with the party line, given that Neymar had spent the press conference’s previous 15 minutes insisting that individual accolades do not matter to him. Up to then, the Barcelona attacker had expertly echoed his manager’s preachings about the importance of the collective: “Nobody plays alone. We are 11 players on the pitch and others on the bench.”

You wouldn’t guess that from the overbearing attention on Neymar in the build-up, not least in the media exchange on the eve of the opening game against Croatia. He is the country’s great hope, the team’s defining player.

If Brazil as a whole are expected to bury the ghosts of the World Cup defeat to Uruguay in 1950, Neymar is explicitly charged with driving them to that victory by replicating the legends of the past. It was a common theme of the build-up. It is also quite a burden for a mere 22-year-old.

You wouldn’t have guess that, however, from his demeanour. Neymar wavered between outright bullishness and innate breeziness, switching from declarations that Brazil would definitely win to jokes with his manager.

It was also that sense of relaxation that led to his slight slip, and revealed one of the remaining issues with his game and career. Just as Neymar could not continue to deny he has personal ambitions at this tournament, he cannot yet eradicate an erratic individualism to his game. It was one cause of an underwhelming first season with Barcelona (along with a whole lot of controversy about his transfer) and something Scolari has clearly been working hard to counter.

The Brazilian manager knows such a young man is seen as a symbol, but wants that to work in a more beneficial way, for both himself and the team. Scolari wants Neymar to be a symbol in a different way, the ultimate example of how everyone is prepared to compromise themselves for the collective.

“He doesn’t specialise in marking but sometimes he does try, in order to give his contribution to the whole team.”

That message is all the more important given that the Brazil camp are so clearly attempting to include the country’s various protestors, and preach a spirit of togetherness.

 

Of course, there’s one way that Neymar can start to do that today against Croatia: by scoring or setting up the goal that unites so many in joy.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border