SALVADOR DE BAHIA: Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari forecast Barcelona would get their money’s worth from Neymar after the starlet again showed his mercurial talent in the win over Italy.
The 21-year-old scored his third goal in as many Confederations Cup group matches – a thumping freekick – as the Selecao saw off the four-time world champions 4-2 to win Group A with a perfect record.
Defeat would have seen the Brazilians heading for a likely encounter with world champions Spain — but that pairing could now provide a final representing a mouth-watering clash of styles pitting Spain’s renowned collective against Brazilian individualism.
After coming into the tournament on the back of a nine-match goalscoring drought, Neymar has hit top form and Scolari is relishing the sight of the forward in full flow — as well as his six-shooter goal celebrations.
The Brazilian coach was effusive in his praise, having earlier in the tournament issued none too subtle public messages reminding Neymar to be a team player.
“He dealt well with the European marking and Barcelona must be very happy as he is putting a good run of matches together,” he said. “Neymar is a quality player and we knew he had those qualities but he can still progress.
“He is an idol for all Brazilians, those who love football. You can call a genius someone who makes a difference and understands what is going on during a match. He was doing that before when he was not scoring but was making chances for his teammates and in so doing he was a team player.”
Neymar himself was circumspect when asked if Brazil were now finding the kind of form which could lead them to believe they can win not just this tournament but the World Cup.
“I think we are ready for the semi-finals here, but I won’t say we are ready for the World Cup as yet. We have many tactical qualities,” said the spiky-haired star.
In the other match on Saturday night, Manchester United star Javier Hernandez scored twice but missed a last-minute penalty as Mexico defeated Japan 2-1 to leave the Asian side winless at the Confederations Cup.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 24th, 2013.
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