Last weekend saw the Brazilian football team winning their first major trophy in 12 years. By beating Peru 3-1 in the final of the Copa America, Brazil ended an uncharacteristically barren spell. What’s more impressive is the fact that Brazil manage to achieve this feat without their star player, Neymar.
The Paris Saint Germain striker missed the Copa America tournament due to an ankle injury sustained in a friendly match against Qatar last month. Whilst many people were speculating that Neymar’s absence would limit Brazil’s chances, the team proved the doubters wrong and earned their first silverware in over a decade.
As a result, there is now a big question over whether Brazil really need the tempestuous temperament of Neymar in their squad. In addition to this, Neymar has been making little secret of the fact that he wishes to leave Paris Saint Germain to rejoin Barcelona. With news stories circulating that Neymar even missed the first day of training for Paris Saint Germain, it seems that this star just can’t keep out of the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
Brazil finally triumph in the 2019 Copa America
Brazil’s Copa America victory wasn’t an easy task. The team’s manager, Tite, not only had to do without Neymar, but Brazil had to overcome the reputation for consistently underperforming on the big stage.
The Brazilian team’s performance at the 2018 World Cup was distinctly below par, and they were deservedly beaten 2-1 by Belgium in the quarter-finals. Having to host the 2019 Copa America tournament meant that Brazil had to rise above that horrifying 1-7 home thrashing by Germany in the 2014 World Cup.
Thankfully, Tite helped Brazil cultivate a modern style of football that was much more progressive than we’ve seen in previous tournaments. Rather than relying upon an unpredictable Neymar, Philippe Coutinho was allowed much more freedom, and the likes of Everton and Gabriel Jesus proved to be invaluable on the flanks.
Beating Peru 3-1 in the final was anything but a walkover. The match was fraught with emotion, and after Gabriel Jesus was controversially sent off in the second half, it looked like Peru would be able to mount a comeback. But when Richarlison slotted home a very late penalty, Brazil once again asserted themselves as the kings of South American football.
Other big stories of the 2019 Copa America competition
Despite Brazil’s Copa America triumph, it’s clear that this tournament was anything but plain sailing for the biggest teams. Brazil clearly found it hard to dominate teams like Venezuela and Paraguay in the earlier stages, and both Colombia and Uruguay were knocked out in the quarter-finals thanks to wins on penalties for Chile and Peru respectively.
Peru were one of the surprise packages of the 2019 Copa America tournament. Whilst they struggled to get third place in the group stages, they came to life in the knock-out rounds. Their quarter-final victory over Uruguay was a result of Luis Suarez missing the mark in the penalty shoot-out, whilst their 3-0 victory over Chile in the semi-finals caused shockwaves all over the continent.
Chile were on course for their third successive Copa America triumph before goals from Peru’s Edison Flores, Yoshimar Yotun and Paolo Guerrero sent them packing, and Peru certainly gave Brazil a run for their money in a hot-blooded final.
Argentina have been in the footballing doldrums recently, and their fortunes didn’t improve at this year’s Copa America tournament. With an opening defeat by Colombia, it almost seemed like Argentina wouldn’t even make the knock-out rounds. This was followed up by a dismal 1-1 draw against Paraguay, and it was only an unremarkable 2-0 win over Qatar that saw Argentina reach the quarter-finals.
Whilst a 2-0 win against lowly-ranked Venezuela saw Argentina through to a semi-final clash against Brazil, this was just the start of more torment for Lionel Scaloni’s team. The 2-0 defeat by Brazil featured a number of controversial refereeing decisions that were blasted by Lionel Messi as being ‘crazy’, and the Argentina star was bizarrely sent off in a third-place match against Chile which led Messi to claim that Copa America officials were ‘corrupt’.
Will Neymar ever succeed on the international stage?
Messi’s Copa America troubles in some way parallel the difficulties that have plagued Neymar’s international career. Both stars are unquestionably hugely talented, and whilst they have put in no end of stunning performances for their club teams, both Messi and Neymar have yet to shine on the international stage.
Whilst Cristiano Ronaldo almost single-handedly lifted Portugal into being major trophy winners, Neymar has repeatedly come under fire for sub-par performances. Most of the press attention on the Brazilian star in the 2018 World Cup was a result of his woeful diving rather than anything of substance.
Although Neymar briefly shone in the second round match against Mexico, it always seemed that his ego was getting in the way of Brazil’s progression as a team. But with Neymar’s injury, other players like Coutinho have managed to prove that they can benefit the Brazil side as a whole.
This was compounded by the fact that the young star Everton managed to show plenty of dribbling skill and pace at the Copa America. Few people would question Neymar’s immense talent, but for this tournament, it seems that his disruptive influence was best left on the sidelines.
Is Neymar leaving Paris Saint Germain?
Neymar once again shot to the forefront of the football headlines this week when it was announced that he had failed to turn up to the first of Paris Saint Germain’s summer training sessions. The Brazilian star was supposed to have turned up at the training ground on Monday, but was absent due to commitments to his charitable organisation, the Neymar Institute.
Representatives from Neymar’s family stated that the player will return to normal training activities with Paris Saint Germain on 15 July. However, the Paris Saint Germain officials have taken a dim view of the whole affair and have said that they will take appropriate action to discipline the star.
This episode highlights just how badly the relationship between Neymar and Paris Saint Germain has deteriorated in recent months. The striker has been repeatedly linked with a move back to his old club, Barcelona, and Paris Saint Germain’s director has stated that Neymar can leave the club if there is a suitable offer that meets the requirements of all parties.
There has already been what has been labelled ‘very superficial contact’ from Barcelona about getting Neymar to rejoin their ranks. This follows on from the Barcelona president, Josep Bartomeu, stating that the forward wants to leave Paris Saint Germain in the coming months, and that Neymar even proposed taking a €12 million-per year pay cut to return to La Liga football.
Why is Neymar so keen to rejoin Barcelona?
Neymar joined Paris Saint Germain in August 2017. This saw him leaving Barcelona for a record-breaking £200 million fee, and he quickly proved his worth by clocking up 34 goals in 37 appearances for the title-winning French team.
But with numerous injuries and Paris Saint Germain’s inability to succeed in the Champions League, it seemed evident that Neymar wasn’t happy at the French team. Whilst the Brazilian star formed a formidable alliance with PSG teammates such as Kylian Mbappe, he once again managed to provoke the press with his antics both off and on the pitch.
Nowhere was this better seen than when Neymar got in a physical altercation with a supporter following Paris Saint Germain’s stunning French Cup defeat by Rennes. This followed on from him getting a three-match European football ban as a result of him insulting match officials in the Paris Saint Germain match against Manchester United.
As a result, Neymar will certainly be keen to draw a line under his experience of French football. Neymar earned his legacy during his four years with Barcelona, and he will know that this Spanish team could give him his best chance of getting a major trophy.
This is especially so as Barcelona have been adding plenty of quality players to their ranks such as Ajax’s Frenkie De Jong, and Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann is also rumoured to be close to joining this legendary Spanish side.
What next for Brazil’s international ambitions?
Neymar will have been devastated to have missed out on Brazil’s Copa America campaign. However, we’ll get to see how Neymar fits into Tite’s new-look Brazil team when the side play a couple of international friendlies in September.
These matches will see Brazil taking on their South American rivals Peru and Colombia, and it will be fascinating to see whether Tite can afford to leave Neymar out of the squad once more. And with less than 12 months until Brazil’s 2022 World Cup qualifiers begin, it’s hoped that Neymar might finally get to show the world his true worth.