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Brazil cruised into the quarter-finals of the World Cup on Monday as goals from Neymar and substitute Roberto Firmino gave them a 2-0 victory over Mexico to stay on course for a sixth title.
Neymar was criticised for his early performances in Russia as he eased his way back to fitness after a broken foot bone, but he carved open a tough Mexican defence to score one and assist the other.
Here, we analyse the performance of the Samba star.
There’s an irony to Neymar’s play in that he spends most of Brazil’s contests on the deck, yet time and time again rises to produce the knockout blow.
A boxing analogy is misleading, though, because the 26-year-old is an infuriating blend of dazzling ability and irritating frailty. We saw the good, the bad and the sublime against Mexico. He drifted out to the left and cut inside frequently with fancy footwork to great effect, once in the build-up to his opener and then as his shot squeezed through for Firmino to finish.
Of course, the play acting overshadowed his display, but beyond the unnecessary theatrics, he produces pure drama when on the ball.
Selfless – Not often you can say this about Neymar but when he invites his teammates to shoulder some creative burden, it is to Brazil’s benefit. An obvious example was in the opener as his run drew in Mexico defenders before shifting the ball for Willian to cross.
Production – The Paris Saint-Germain forward is starting to elevate himself into the ‘World Cup star’ role and according to Opta he’s now attempted the most shots (23), had most shots on target (12) as well as created the most goalscoring chances for his teammates (16) at this tournament.
Play acting – Neymar is chasing a Ballon d’Or but if he continues in this vein, he’ll be in line for an Oscar. It’s difficult to appreciate his brilliance when he negates it with his childish theatrics.
Scored one, assisted another and rolled about. Simple synopsis for the Brazilian but in pure footballing terms, he’s the undoubted hero, even if he does try his absolute best to be the villain as well.
All statistics are compiled using whoscored.com
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