He’s on billboards and posters around town; he does commercials for phone companies and fast food restaurants; his name is on the back of the jersey most fans are wearing.
Neymar is good looking, smart, gracious and one of the best posterboys Brazil could have hoped for in the World Cup.
And with two goals against Cameroon, which gave him four in this tournament, Neymar’s making himself into a worldwide phenomenon.
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Still Brazilian fans aren’t quick to loop Neymar in with greats such as Garrincha, Ronaldo, Zico, and of course, Pele. This is a country with high expectations for their stars and scoring goals against teams that aren't moving on to the knockout rounds of the tournament isn't going to cut it.
“He has to win a lot of titles to be one of the greatest because we have Pele, Zico Ronaldo, they won the World Cup and for us, that’s the most important thing,” said Renatu Goulart, who had gathered in the Rio neighborhood of Leblon to watch the game against Cameroon with friends. “If he won the title for Brazil, he would be recognized worldwide and everybody would give respect to him. He’s competing with all those other guys, so he needs a big title to be on the same level as those other players.”
But Neymar’s numbers suggest he could be well on his way to greatness.
At just 22 years old, Neymar has already scored 35 goals and had 20 assists in just 53 matches with the senior national team. His four goals in the World Cup make him the tournament’s top scorer, just ahead of Arjen Robben from Netherlands and Karim Benzama from France.
Former English national team player and Manchester United center-back Rio Ferdinand is already impressed:
Neymar: 22yrs old, 53 games, 35 goals, 20 assists....that's illegal!! Dealing with pressure like a boss.
— Rio Ferdinand (@rioferdy5) June 23, 2014
So far, Neymar, who has often been compared to Pele, has dealt well with being Brazil’s top player and has carried his team into the knockout rounds next week. Still, expectations are high if he wants to be considered among Brazil’s elite.
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“I don’t think there’s pressure on him, but expectation,” said Brazil fan Eduardo Boccaletti, who was watching the game with friends on a flatscreen in a van. “Every single World Cup we’ve got a big name and the big name of this World Cup is him. He’s building up, he’s got good momentum and now everyone is focused on him and it’s a lot of expectation that turns into pressure.
"He got potential, but he’s got a lot to prove. He’s too young. He’s played like two years of good futbol. So, he has to play well at the World Cup and then when he gets back to Barcelona, if he plays well and keeps going, he’s got a lot of potential to really make it.”
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