Neymar: A prince with a chance to be the king

Neymar Junior first came into the Brazil team in 2010 at just 18 years of age. Immediately, he was touted as the next big thing in Brazilian football and the talisman who will take them to their sixth World Cup trophy.

In the 12 years since then, ‘The Prince’ of Brazilian football has lived up to his early promise, representing the Selecao in 121 games, scoring 71 goals and making 54 assists.

Neymar needs just three goals to surpass the great Pele and become Brazil’s all-time highest goal-scorer.

The Paris-Saint Germain forward also ended Brazil’s 64-year wait when he led his team to their first ever gold medal in the Olympic Games in 2016.

But in spite of all of his achievements for the national team, there is one thing missing. Neymar is yet to take Brazil to their ‘Hexa’.

In 2014, Brazil rode on Neymar’s individual brilliance to make it to the semifinal. But an injury he suffered in the dying minutes of the quarterfinal against Colombia meant he couldn’t take part in the semifinal.

A Neymar-less Brazil stood no chance against Germany and got rolled over 7-1, a scoreline that haunts every Brazil player and fans to this date.

In 2018, Brazil’s journey ended in the quarterfinal against Belgium with a 1-2. Neymar played his heart out in that game but Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois played the match of his life to keep Brazil from equalising.

Heading into the 2022 World Cup, Neymar is in tremendous form, scoring 15 goals and making 12 assists in 20 appearances in the 2022-23 season for his club PSG.

At 30 years of age, the Qatar World Cup will be the last World Cup where Neymar will be at the height of his abilities.

So, the time is ripe for Brazil’s prince to ascend to the throne and join other great Brazilian footballers who have lifted the World Cup trophy. Will Neymar make that leap or fall short for the third time, only time will tell.

‘A burden shared is a burden halved’

At the 2014 and 2018 World Cups, the Brazil team was over-dependent on the brilliance of Neymar at the attacking front.

Although Neymar bears this massive burden with apparent ease, against stronger teams and in crucial matches, other players need to step up.

This time, Brazil have a number of in-form attacking options who will share the goal-scoring burden with Neymar.

Real Madrid left winger Vinicius junior, right winger Rodrygo, Arsenal forward Gabriel Jesus are sure to reduce the burden on Neymar and make Brazil more dynamic in front of the opponent’s goal post.

The Asian connection

Before Qatar, the only other Asian countries to host the FIFA World Cup were Japan and South Korea, when they jointly hosted the 2002 edition of the mega event.

In that edition, Brazil entered the tournament after a tumultuous qualifier campaign. But in the main tournament, the Selecao reigned supreme, defeating Germany in the final to lift their fifth World Cup trophy.

20 years later, the World Cup has returned to Asia. Will the trophy also return to Brazil? The Brazil fans certainly hope so.

The odds are in Brazil’s favour

Who will win the FIFA World Cup 2022?

Nobody knows the answer to this million dollar question. The best one can do right now is to make an educated guess.

Betting sites, which are known for making such educated guesses, have already declared that the five-time World champions Brazil will win their long awaited ‘Hexa’ in Qatar.

Multiple booking sites have named Brazil as the favourites to win the Qatar World Cup followed by Argentina, England, France and Spain.

Unscathed from the injury trap

This is the first time a World Cup is taking place at the middle of the European club football season.

Due to the excessive heat in the middle-east during Summer, FIFA is holding the tournament during the winter.

But holding the World Cup in between the club football season has increased the match load for the players and has resulted in injuries to many players.

Till 18 November, Argentina had lost three players to injury, France couldn’t pick Paul Pogba and N’golo Kante due to injuries and have also lost forward Christopher Nkunku due to an injury he suffered during a training session at the national team’s camp.

England are without injured defender Reece James and Germany couldn’t pick Marco Reus due to an injury.

Brazil, however, have been very fortunate in this sense as none of their 26-member squad are carrying any serious injuries.

The only slight injury risk is the Manchester United winger Antony. But he is also well on his way to being fully fit and available for selection in Brazil’s opening game against Serbia on 25 November.