The World Cup is known to create superstars. I remember watching specific players during my childhood and I can remember goals, shots, moves even though I cannot recall specific years for the exact World Cup etc. at times. Usually the games or specific moments create these superstars and that is what makes the event the best one to watch when it comes to world of sport.
We are in the age of superstars however, more than ever and everyone wants to be one. In comes Neymar, where all attacks came to die during the game against Switzerland. Many including the increasingly annoying and inconsistent pundits of Fox Sports blamed the ref for not ‘protecting’ Neymar like he was an endangered species. In some ways, he was. The game is about movement and movement of the ball more than ever, but Neymar wants to be the star so bad that he would rather take on 3 players instead of looking for the open teammate. He wanted that highlight goal so bad, he killed his team’s offense by keeping the ball, slowing down the attack of Brazil. Guess what, he got fouled a lot. The Swiss team fouled Neymar 10 times during the game and were blamed for targeting him.
Here is an idea… pass the ball. Teams come up with strategies all the time to take a certain player out of the game. Slide the safety over in football, double team in basketball…in most cases, you counter the strategy as the offense and go after the 1-1 matchup or hit the open player as simple math says that if 2-3 players are covering one someone is open. Or you can use the Neymar school of offense where you force things in to interceptions, turnovers or simply fouls. No self respecting defender will let you come out of a dribble against three players. They will either steal the ball or foul you, you are not coming out of the other side. Most of these fouls were trips, not ruthless sliding tackles. There were some blatant pulls which were penalized with yellow cards and the Swiss were smart enough to rotate the players on Neymar to avoid the red card. Is it pretty to watch? No. Is it legal? Yes. It is not the refereee’s job to protect Neymar so he can do his moves and keep his hair in perfect shape.
I will admit that I am not a huge Neymar fan. He goes out of his way to make moves looking to embarrass players, wants to be THE star and make it a one man show, and dives like he has been shot more than any other player I have seen. As someone who spent his entire playing days as a defender, Neymar asks to be fouled for all reasons above. Behrami could not help but chuckle everytime he dominated Neymar physically and Neymar’s reaction was to complain and overreact like he was punched. I know everyone is complaining about how the Switzerland players were not punished but not blaming Neymar for hurting the team by stopping the ball movement almost every time he got the ball, not creating any space for his fellow teammates by moving himself but instead expecting the ball to be played to his feet so he can be the superstar. If you keep the ball that long, you will either lose the ball or will get fouled, no one is going to let you dribble through and become a part of your highlight reel. If that is what Neymar fans expect, they should go watch Harlem Globetrotters for their brand of sports. I hear they pull of some unbelievable moves!
So what is next? Unfortunately all this crying and complaining is bad news for Serbia and Costa Rica as defenders will not be allowed to pass gas next to Neymar now. Brazil will bounce back if they make the needed adjustments. Putting in Firmino would be a good start as the team looked much more lively while he was in there doing what he does best, create space with movement and confuse defenses. Serbia’s win puts them in pole position as they enter the Switzerland game which is now looking the more likely contest for the 2nd spot in the group. Costa Rica had a disappointing performance against Serbia and is now put in a very difficult position against a Brazilian team looking to bounce back from a sub par performance. Aside from a very familiar looking Coutinho moment of brilliance, Brazil lacked the attacking power we would expect them to have. Perhaps Neymar will google “passing” in the next few days and focus more on success of the team rather than his superstar status.
Liverpool Player watch: Firmino created more in 11 minutes than Jesus did entire game thanks to his movement but Jesus will retain the starting spot for the next game according to Brazil coach Tite. This has to just show the team that there is no need to press the panic button and to stay the course. The eye test definitely showed a more fluid Brazil on offense. (7/10)