The forward made a sensational return from injury with a phenomenal goal in a 2-0 friendly victory over Croatia.
Neymar’s first taste of match action came just 98 days after suffering an injury that threatened to rule him out of this summer’s tournament in Russia.
His strike gave Brazil the lead in the 69th minute before Roberto Firmino added a second in injury time.
Here’s what we learned from the encounter.
NO CAPTAIN NO PROBLEM
Brazil are among the favourites to lift the World Cup, just which individual will have the honour of hoisting football’s most coveted trophy should they go all the way though is uncertain.
Since Tite’s appointment in June 2016, the captain’s armband has been rotated and against Croatia, Gabriel Jesus became the 15th player – in full internationals – to lead the side under the current regime.
The five-time champions were reportedly set to be led by Dani Alves at Russia but the full-back’s injury has seen the policy of rotation continue.
Brazil have been led into battle by some iconic captains over the years with the likes of Carlos Alberto, Cafu and Pele among them.
Despite lacking in a permanent skipper at the moment, there’s no shortage of leadership in the team. The likes of Thiago Silva and Miranda were once again vocal in their marshaling of the back-line while Neymar leads from the front in every sense.
Whether or not Brazil will suffer from the absence of a standout, designated leader as they navigate a major tournament remains to be seen though.
NEYMAR BOOSTS SELECAO
Neymar made a much anticipated return to action when he was introduced in place of Fernandinho at half-time.
The 26-year-old has been confined to the sidelines for over three months after fracturing his foot while playing for Paris Saint-Germain in Ligue 1 on February 25. His presence on the bench for the friendly against Croatia in itself was a boost for the Selecao 11 days before the start of the World Cup.
Concerns over his fitness and match sharpness were swiftly dispelled when Neymar’s stunning effort broke the deadlock 23 minutes into his appearance and brought what was a rather cagey encounter to life.
Willian picked the ball up in midfield and slid it through to the man of the moment down the inside left channel and from there, it was the Neymar show.
He took the pass into his stride perfectly before bamboozling two Croatia defenders, cutting inside and rocketing in a strike off the underside of the bar. His balance was exquisite, the finish uncompromising.
The confidence with which he executed the whole move showed why he’s the world’s most expensive player and would’ve put wind in Brazil’s sails ahead of their opening World Cup match with Switzerland in Rostov-on-Don on June 17.
While the goal announced Neymar’s return with great pomp, it also reiterated his place among Brazil’s all-time greats. He now has 54 goals for the national team, only one behind Romario with only Pele and Ronaldo to catch beyond that.
DON’T DISCOUNT CROATIA
Croatia are set to retain their tag as perennial dark horses heading into the World Cup after proving to be formidable opponents for one of the tournament’s standout favourites.
The 2-0 scoreline flattered Brazil with Roberto Firmino doubling their advantage in injury time. In truth, Croatia caused them plenty of problems as they competed well in the middle of the park for long periods. Luka Modric was excellent at the tip of their three-man central midfield, regularly attacking the final third and putting pressure on the opposition’s back-line.
With Brazil attempting to play out from the back, Zlatko Dalic’s side did well to press high up the pitch and force them into making errors. For Tite’s part, perhaps it’s worth considering Ederson in goal if he is to persist with that ploy given that Roma’s Alisson didn’t look comfortable with the Croats closing in.
The Paris St Germain star produced a stunning individual effort in the 68th minute of his first outing since he fractured his metatarsal playing for Paris St Germain in February.
Neymar had started on the bench as he eases back into contention but there was a start for former Liverpool star Philippe Coutinho on his return to Anfield.
It was the Croatians, limbering up for a tough group involving Argentina, Nigeria and Iceland, who threatened first but an Ante Rebic chance was snuffed out by Thiago Silva.
Also playing on home soil, Croatian defender Dejan Lovren came close to snatching the lead when he headed inches over from a corner.
And despite relatively few first-half chances, the intent within the game could not be under-stated with both Ivan Perisic and Fernandinho booked by referee Michael Oliver in a tetchy end to the first half.
Neymar’s introduction added urgency to the Brazilian forward line which only increased when Firmino replaced Gabriel Jesus on the hour.
And Neymar broke the deadlock in style when he was fed by Coutinho on the left and drifted inside, beating Sime Vrsaljko before lashing the ball home off the crossbar.
Chances remained at a premium in what, Neymar apart, was proving a low-key encounter, with both sides evidently having their minds on other things.
But there was the finish the home fans wanted deep in stoppage time when Firmino met Casemiro’s lofted cross and chipped home with a beautiful finish.
Neymar has admitted he is fearful over his return to action for the first time since suffering ankle ligament damage back in February.
The 26-year-old Paris Saint-Germain star is currently with the Brazil squad as they prepare to complete a training camp in England this week.
Watch the Real Madrid target talk to the media in Brazil.