RIO DE JANEIRO: As Brazil prepared for the Copa America last month, a Neymar-brought about pall of doom and gloom threatened to scupper the host nation’s probabilities before a ball had even been kicked.
The unrelenting circus surrounding the captain and talisman of the Selecao had protected lurid rape revelations earlier than an ankle damage in a warm-up sport left the Paris Saint-Germain striker on crutches and out of the event.
It became an eerie echo of Brazil’s disastrous 2014 World Cup on domestic soil, when Neymar became injured within the area-finals and overlooked his team’s stressful 7-1 humiliation towards eventual champions Germany inside the final 4.
Yet as this 12 months’s Copa marketing campaign unfolded, Brazil tested that it’d have in the end eliminate the longstanding criticisms of “Neymar-dependency.”
While Neymar’s innovative spark was sorely lacking in a dour zero-0 draw with Venezuela in the course of the group degree, Brazil step by step grew into the tournament.
And by the time captain Dani Alves hoisted the trophy — Brazil’s first principal honor in 12 years — following the three-1 victory over Peru in the final at the enduring Maracana stadium on Sunday, Neymar had at final been shoved aside because the Copa’s essential speaking point.
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What’s extra, Brazil had proved in completing with the tournament’s quality attack, great defence, top player in Alves, top scorer in Everton and pinnacle goalkeeper in Alisson — a clean sweep of every award going — that they could thrive with out Neymar.
Its importance became now not lost on Liverpool’s Alisson, regardless of how diplomatically he positioned it.
“It became difficult with out Neymar due to the fact he’s very gifted and also brings plenty to the collective,” stated Alisson.
“It was crucial to win to show the electricity of the organization.
“Sometimes he receives all the eye and we’re a bit ignored… but he’s much cherished.”
Crucially, two of the gamers thrust into the spotlight through Neymar’s absence and indiscretions sparkled within the limelight.
In May, Alves became named captain for the tournament after Neymar hit the headlines — pre-rape allegations — for the incorrect motives together with his club, selecting up European and domestic bans for petulant conduct.
He had an altercation with a fan after PSG misplaced the French Cup very last to Rennes while the month before he insulted a in shape legitimate after the French facet’s Champions League elimination by way of Manchester United.
Alves led via instance and became named player of the match, at the same time as his ability and trickery in beginning the pass that led to the first intention in Brazil’s 2-0 semi-very last victory over Argentina become elegant.
Brazil wins Copa America
The different player to take his hazard became Everton, the crowd-alluring winger who regularly lifted enthusiasts onto their toes with his direct jogging and decided dribbling.
He completed the Copa as top scorer and a celebrity for the prevailing in place of the future.
But he may by no means had been given the hazard to polish had Neymar been there.
As it become, Everton was no longer even considered one of Brazil’s beginning forwards in opposition to either Bolivia or Venezuela, handiest approaching instead in the ones suits earlier than his performances earnt him a beginning berth from then on.
Had Neymar been available, Everton may have determined himself further down the pecking order and given fewer opportunities to impress.
Instead, the Gremio ahead mounted himself because the undisputed crowd favourite.
He changed into the best one among 3 home-based players inside the 23-guy squad to get a sport at some point of the event and drew the most important cheer every time his name changed into introduced or he touched the ball.
In Everton — who at 23 is a rumored goal for European giants Manchester City, Manchester United and PSG — Brazil have possibly determined an extended-time period alternative to the bothered and unsuitable Neymar because the usa’s soccer icon.
For some fanatics, like Elaine Vieira Pessoa de Sousa, Brazil don’t need Neymar any more.
“We’re champions! And the great thing is that it become with out Neymar,” the 43-12 months-vintage told AFP from the streets of Sao Paulo as she celebrated Brazil’s victory.
“This proves that we don’t rely on him any greater, it’s not all all the way down to him.
“This is Brazil, regardless of who performs.”