This time around, things must be different. Vinicius, a couple of months on from scoring the winning goal in a Champions League final, is surging, European soccer’s breakout star. His teammates and his nation have rallied around him within the aftermath of the racist abuse he has received in Spain for having the temerity to have fun his goals; several fans had made their method to the Stade Océane to induce him to maintain dancing.
He shouldn’t be alone. Brazil’s attacking resources run so deep that Tite didn’t even must call up Gabriel Jésus and Gabriel Martinelli, Arsenal’s forwards, for his squad; he could afford to introduce Rodrygo, Vinicius’s Real Madrid teammate, with just a few minutes to go. Roberto Firmino didn’t even make it off the bench. For what stands out as the first time in his international profession, Neymar doesn’t must feel that the whole lot hinges on him.
Perhaps his performance, then, could be explained by a newfound sense of freedom. Perhaps he’s playing unfettered by the suffocating pressure that he has carried for thus long. Perhaps, on what stands out as the strongest team that Brazil has boasted since 2002 — a team, definitely, greater than able to ending the country’s wait — he feels more comfortable, more able to expressing himself.
Whatever the rationale, his display against Ghana was that of a person neither willing nor able to vacate center stage. It might have been enough that he created two of Brazil’s three goals, each of them finished off by Richarlíson — Marquinhos scored the opposite, a thunderous header from a corner — but that was the reward for, fairly than the whole of, the whole lot he did.
Neymar, it’s fair to say, looks different this season. He has now registered 11 goals and 10 assists in 12 games for club and country, a streak of form that makes it feel someway deeply strange that roughly two months ago, not only did P.S.G. appear willing to sell him, but no person seemed desperately keen to purchase the costliest player in the game’s history.
The raw numbers, as ever, are merely an illustration. There was a sharpness, a poise and, perhaps most encouraging of all, an invention to Neymar over the past couple of months. Tite has said that he’s “flying,” his “speed and execution in perfection sync.” Even Thierry Henry, habitually unimpressed, feels he has “come to inform everyone: Don’t forget me.”