The 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup has given Brazil fans the opportunity to enjoy what Santos supporters have savoured over the last few years, and Barcelona fans will soon enjoy: the heightened sense of anticipation that comes with watching Neymar getting on the ball.
The star had the Seleção fans on their feet as early as the third minute of Brazil’s opening match against Japan, thumping the ball into the top corner from just outside the box. And he had them drooling again towards the end of the meeting with Mexico, when he somehow worked some space in the tightest of situations to lay on a classy assist for strike partner Jo.
In the build-up to Sunday’s final against Spain at the Maracana, however, it is the Brazil ace’s turn to feel the anticipation, as he prepares for quite possibly the most important game of his young career, one in which he will be under pressure yet again to perform.
“It’s a big final and it’s got all the makings of a historic match. We’re aware of that,” he told FIFA.com. “We hope to be able to write our name in the football history books, especially with the game taking place at the Maracana.”
The 21-year-old is sure to feel the pressure until the moment he steps out at the legendary stadium to face his Spanish idols, the team who have set the standard in modern football. Let no one be under the impression, however, that Neymar is in any way nervous about being in the spotlight.
Increasingly at ease with the growing media attention he generates, Neymar could not have been more relaxed as he spoke to the assembled press. He told reporters that he turned to team-mate Thiago Silva after Spain’s gruelling semi-final shootout win over Italy on Thursday and said he wished the final was being played on Friday and not Sunday. “We have to wait though, don’t we?” he joked.
Players go through a whole gamut of emotions in the build-up to any final, and Brazil’s main man has been through a few of them with Santos and knows what such occasions demand. Yet this is no ordinary final, not when it’s being played at the Maracana, with him wearing Brazil’s feted No10 shirt, and with one of his favourite teams providing the opposition, a team he has selected and won with many times on the video game console.
“The whole world was expecting a Brazil-Spain final, us included,” he said, anticipating Sunday’s blockbuster. “We’re going to play against the best in the world, the best team in the world.”
He added that La Roja deserved to be considered favourites for the final, in recognition of their status as the reigning world and two-time European champions, a statement he qualified by saying, “We need to show respect, but we also need to impose ourselves on the pitch. Spain have brought their star players, and Brazil have brought theirs too.”