The Brazilian team taking part in Qatar has been called the best team to take part in the tournament since the legend-filled triumphant side of 2002. A hugely important figure in the current Selecao team is Neymar.
No wonder that his knee injury in Brazil's 2-0 win against Serbia in their opening game of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 has caused worldwide concern amongst the fanbase. With Neymar expected to be out for the remaining group stage games, his presence could prove vital to Tite's side. Will Brazil continue to shine without Neymar?
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A Big Miss?
Brazil are the most successful team when it comes to the FIFA World Cup. The South American nation also hold the record for taking part in all 22 editions of the tournament. For the Qatar 2022 tournament, Neymar Jr. is a very important player for the Selecao.
The PSG attacker is Brazil's second-top scorer with 75 goals in 122 games for the Selecao, only behind Pele, who has 77 goals.
In qualifying, the Brazilian scored eight goals, which was the most for his country and two more than second-placed Richarlison. With 55 assists to his name, the Santos youth product is an elite playmaker who can also score goals.
Although some criticism has been drawn up against him for his commitment to football at club level, he has been exceptional when he has been on the pitch for Paris Saint-Germain.
In the past year, he has been in the top 1% for xA, non-penalty xG+xA, shot-creating actions, passes attempted among forwards, and progressive passes. With 11 goals and 9 assists in 1080 league minutes, he has been in red-hot form for his club.
He's been doing it for PSG in the UCL as well, scoring two and assisting two in five UCL games. Without a doubt, he is one of the best players on the planet right now.
Thus, now that his undeniable importance has been established, how much will Brazil miss him? Is there someone who can replace him in that squad?
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As already seen in the game against Serbia, where the European team largely managed to silence Neymar, Brazil is not entirely dependent on the PSG forward to get them out of sticky situations.
It is no longer the case where Brazil depends on moments of magic from their talisman in order to defeat mid-level or top-level opponents.
With an attack that boasts the likes of Vinicius Junior, Richarlison, Raphinha, Gabriel Martinelli, Rodrygo, Antony, and Gabriel Jesus, Brazil are well stocked in the attacking department even in the absence of Neymar.
Neymar has predominantly been seen being deployed in the hole behind the frontline, a position that could be occupied by Lucas Paqueta and Gabriel Jesus to a highly successful degree.
In the match, Brazil played a midfield trio of Casemiro, Lucas Paqueta, and Neymar. This midfield struggled to recycle the ball and lacked balance in the first half. The introduction of Bruno Guimaraes changed the outcome of the match, bringing balance to the heart of Brazil.
Thus, in the wake of Neymar's injury, Tite could explore playing a more balanced midfield, which will allow his forwards to play with more freedom and lessen the pressure that is usually put on the backline.
But if he wants a like-for-like replacement for the Sao Paulo-born superstar, then Gabriel Jesus and Lucas Paqueta can easily step up in his position to fill his void to some extent.
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Similar to Messi and Ronaldo, FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 could be Neymar's final World Cup appearance. We saw in 2014 what he was capable of when he's on form, at his peak. His injury in that World Cup was a huge setback for the host countries, who were humiliated in the semifinals by eventual winners Germany.
Neymar is unarguably the most key element in his Brazilian attack. However, if he is the best rice in the world, his teammates will add flavour and color. Brazil have already demonstrated that their Samba magic is in full flow, and it will continue in the remainder of the group stage despite the absence of their star player Neymar.