Since he established himself as a player on Santos’ professional team, Neymar has also become the main name in Brazilian football. In 2013, he became a global star when he moved to Barcelona and inaugurated the ‘Neymar era’ in the national team, a long period of almost a decade as Brazil’s ultimate star. In that time, there were three World Cups.
Neymar has become the face of the national team, and is on his way to being the greatest scorer in its history – he has 75 goals, just two less than Pelé. In each of the World Cups he played in, he arrived as the best hope for the national team. In each of them, he struggled with injuries. His absence has always been a huge challenge for the team, which never had names with the same characteristic and quality to replace him. In 2022, for the first time, Tite has a wide range of alternatives in his hands.
In 2014, Neymar was a different player than in 2022. Newly arrived at Barcelona, he was at the height of his explosion, he acted as an attacker on the left side and his main characteristic was to attack opponents at high speed. He was the soul of an attack much less popular than the current one, which had the veteran Fred as a center forward and Hulk as a right winger.
In the quarterfinals, against Colombia, the number 10 was hit by Zuñiga with a knee in the back, which took him out of the World Cup. His absence proved to be an unsolvable problem: Luiz Felipe Scolari had Jô, Bernard, Willian and midfielder Ramires on the bench for attack, who came on for Hulk against Colombia in the quarterfinals. Without its star, Brazil ended up suffering the disastrous 7-1 to Germany in the Mineirão.
In 2018, Neymar managed to stay on the field, but suffered from problems in his right ankle – the same place that now threatens him in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Willian and Gabriel Jesus, players capable of playing on the flanks, were already in the starting line-up and had other roles. The options were Douglas Costa and Taison – the second was the most contested name on Tite’s list, and did not play for even a second in the World Cup.
In 2022, the scenario is very different: if, on the one hand, Tite has been heavily criticized for calling up Daniel Alves, who is now one of two alternatives (alongside Eder Militão) to fill in the absence of the also injured Danilo, on the other hand, he ensured that the team has a huge amount of options for the offensive sector.
If you want a player with more frame characteristics, the Brazilian coach can make use of Rodrygo – the Real Madrid striker has been training in the position of Neymar (today practically a number 10). If the alternative is to bring a dribbling and speed player, Rodrygo himself, Antony or Gabriel Martinelli is available. If you’re going to make use of someone capable of acting more centrally, Pedro and Gabriel Jesus play the role: the second can still play open on the sides of the field.
In total, including Neymar, there are nine names for the offensive sector. The coach favored the attack, which has three goalkeepers, four wingers, four defenders and six midfielders.
Also in contrast to the last two World Cups, practically all of Tite’s strikers in 2022 play for top European clubs and are on the rise in the Old Continent. Vini Jr. he is one of the stars of Real Madrid, and Rodrygo was also instrumental in winning the Champions League; Jesus and Martinelli are highlights of an Arsenal that leads the Premier League; Raphinha and Antony shook the ball market and were billionaire signings for Barcelona and Manchester United, respectively. Pedro is the only one who works in Brazil, in Flamengo, champion of the Libertadores.
Tite has yet to give any hints as to how he intends to replace Neymar, who suffered a sprained right ankle in Brazil’s opener against Serbia. In fact, the coach chose to close this Saturday’s training so as not to show the studied alternatives.
Neymar is out of Monday’s match, against Switzerland, at the 974 stadium. Danilo, who also injured his ankle – in his case, the left one – will also be missing.