Neymar has carried Brazil to the 2014 FIFA World Cup quarter finals, and is a contender to win the Golden Ball award for the best player of the tournament. Here’s the case for the FC Barcelona star winning the prize.
Why Neymar will win the Golden Ball
Neymar had a decent – if not spectacular – season for FC Barcelona, but his form for his country is phenomenal.
The statistics illustrate that. In 52 appearances for Brazil, Neymar has directly contributed to 56 goals, scoring 35 times and providing 21 assists. He is just 22 years of age.
The former Santos forward is the avatar of his nation, the face of the World Cup in his home country, and the man with all the pressure on his young shoulders. He is showing little sign of it affecting him.
Indeed, Neymar plays for Brazil with a freedom absent from his game at Barcelona, attempting tricks and ambitious passes and shots that the Camp Nou crowd would frown upon.
Last year at the Confederations Cup in Brazil, he starred as the host country won the tournament, scoring four goals – including one in the final against Spain – and winning the Golden Ball.
That was the dress rehearsal. His performances so far at the World Cup suggest he could repeat the feat on the main stage.
Why Neymar won’t win the Golden Ball
There are three reasons Neymar might be denied the chance to repeat his Golden Ball triumph from the Confederations Cup.
The first is the fact that so far he has been perhaps Brazil’s only standout player, and he will need his team-mates to step up their games if they are to progress to the latter stages.
The second is that some of Neymar’s rivals are in superb form. James Rodriguez has scored in every single game. Lionel Messi has scored in all but one. Arjen Robben and Thomas Muller have also been prolific.
The third is that despite how well Neymar has coped in his short career so far, the pressure to single-handedly win the World Cup on home soil could yet affect him.
Brazil have brought in sports psychologists to counter the effects on an openly emotional squad, but only time will tell if they have an effect.