Will Neymar ever be part of a World Cup winning team?
A World Cup that began with so much hope for Brazilian forward Neymar, ended in heartbreak after a brutal quarter final game against the Colombians finished with the Barcelona player injured, on the treatment bench and ruled out of the remainder of the tournament.
At the age of just 22, the player has plenty of time to recover and he could possibly still play in a further three World Cup competitions, all the way up until 2026, but with Brazil hosting the finals in 2014, has his chance of ultimate glory already slipped away?
Brazil are third favourites at 8.80 with Betfair to win the World Cup when it heads to Russia in 2018, but the South Americans‚Äô chances are affected when the tournament switches across to another continent.
Admittedly, a Pele-driven Brazil won the 1958 tournament in Sweden, but after their success in 2014, everyone expects the Germans to prevail when they come to defend their title. Despite that, the Brazilians will have a strong team and at 26, Neymar should be coming into his prime.
The concern from the country‚Äôs point of view must surely be that defence, which looked shaky before that unbelievable 7-1 thrashing at the hands of the eventual champions. Traditionally, any Brazil side is spectacular coming forward, but a little vulnerable at the back. Ahead of the 2014 finals, this looked to be the most solid back line that the nation had ever possessed, at least theoretically…
The majority of criticism fell at the feet of PSG‚Äôs David Luiz, who rarely looks comfortable in defence. The former Chelsea man is a threat in front of the opposing goal and it‚Äôs a continual surprise that managers are reluctant to push him further forward.
If Luiz is taken out of the back four, that leaves Marcelo, Dani Alves and Thiago Silva, but age may mean that none of the three will be considered for Russia FIFA World Cup 2018. Real Madrid‚Äôs Marcelo will be the youngest of the defenders at 30, while Dani Alves, at 35, will have reached the veteran stage.
Concerns further upfield
Until the cynical challenge that ended his World Cup journey, Neymar enjoyed a productive tournament and was challenging for the Golden Boot as the tournament‚Äôs leading scorer. However, a lack of support from the strikers around him ‚Äď Fred, Jo and Hulk ‚Äď made life more difficult for the Bar√ßa¬†man.
If Brazil are to compete in Russia and beyond, another centre forward has to take some responsibility away from Neymar and Hulk is the only one of the remaining trio that could comfortably expect to play in Russia.
That means that the new national coach will have to bring through some young talent and hope too that Leandro Damiao returns to form after a disappointing year in domestic football.
The questions hanging over 2022
Brazil may have a better chance of success in Qatar, but there remains a doubt as to whether the tournament will actually take place here. Controversy has dogged the country since it was handed the tournament and few observers would be surprised if it were moved elsewhere.
Neymar would be 30 at this point and the conditions, if the finals were to be held in Qatar, may give him the best chance to add a World Cup medal to his list of honors. The Barcelona forward could finish his career as Brazil‘s highest goal scorer and one of the finest players that his country has ever seen, but at the relatively young age of 22, has his best chance of World Cup glory already passed him by?
Sources: bbc.co.uk / betfair.com / theguardian.com / cnn.com