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Cometh the hour, cometh Neymar - the man for Brazil

Friday, 13 June 2014 - 10:12am IST | Agency: Reuters

Inevitably, it was all about Neymar.

On the day he got his 50th cap, the 22-year-old was once again the star of the show, winning the Man of the Match award as he scored Brazil's first and second goals in their 3-1 opening day win over Croatia.

They were his fifth and sixth goals in his last four Brazil games and take his international total to 33. Only Pele scored 30 in so few games.

Neymar began the Group A match quietly, but was never hesitant or overawed like some of his team mates. Although Brazil went a goal down, he was always probing for an equaliser.

When it came, he was lucky to be on the field. In the 27th minute he elbowed Croatia midfielder Luka Modric in the throat and was fortunate only to get a yellow card.

But he survived and prospered. Moving to a slightly more central role after the first few minutes of the match, he was on the edge of the centre circle to pick up a loose ball a few moments later.

He drove forward, dragged the ball on to his left foot and his shot from just outside the box, while slightly mis-hit, was so perfectly placed that Croatia goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa could not get a fingertip to it, even at full stretch.

In the second half Neymar was the man Brazil turned to in the key moment of the match. Fred threw himself to the ground, won a penalty, and Neymar stepped up and converted. He loves the limelight - as his obsession with selfies and tweets attest - and he does not hide.

Unlike many players who struggle to reproduce their club form at international level, Neymar seems to improve when he pulls on the yellow jersey. The then Santos teenager got his first caps wearing the number 11 shirt but asked to use the famous number ten jersey before last year's Confederations Cup.

It was a significant gesture that stated clearly that he felt ready to take on the responsibility that once sat on the shoulders of Pele, Ronaldinho and Rivaldo.

The local hero was taken off just minutes from time to a standing ovation from the home fans.

"The merit belongs to the team as a whole, which remained cool and calm to come from behind and win," he said afterwards.

"I'm very happy, really happy indeed, more than I ever dreamed or imagined. We started off on the right foot, with a victory."

It was a job well done. (Reporting by Andrew Downie, Editing by Simon Evans.)




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