FIFA World Cup 2018: Neymar needs to read situations better for Brazil, writes Bhaichung Bhutia

Hindustan Times, New Delhi | ByBhaichung Bhutia
Jun 22, 2018 10:30 AM IST

Neymar will have to be the key performer for Brazil if the five-time champions want to succeed in the FIFA World Cup 2018, according to former India skipper Bhaichung Bhutia.

Here’s a thought: how about Brazil using videos of that 1970 Carlos Alberto Torres goal as part of preparations for Friday’s game against Costa Rica? That was a 10-touch move epitomising the two qualities of the 1970 team world champions: individual brilliance and teamwork. It had the dribbling wizardry of Clodoaldo melded into the collective show that produced the goal.

Neymar will be key for Brazil as they look to register their first win in the FIFA World Cup 2018 when they face Costa Rica on Friday.(AFP)
Neymar will be key for Brazil as they look to register their first win in the FIFA World Cup 2018 when they face Costa Rica on Friday.(AFP)

Teams press more now than they did in 1970 and, as this World Cup is showing, defend a lot better. There are no small teams in the World Cup but favourites such as Brazil, Spain, Argentina expect to face opposition who would try and frustrate them. Like the bravehearts from Iran did against Spain, these teams would try and cut off oxygen supply for the opposition forwards. Brazil know that will happen against Costa Rica and while the best way to unhinge such a plan is score early, sometimes even that doesn’t open the game. Ask Portugal who had to again rely on the genius of their skipper on Wednesday.

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So, while it would help if Brazil scored early, what would help more is their ability to stay patient if it they don’t. If Costa Rica line up like Iran did, Brazil are going to find it difficult to stretch them but they must keep trying to do that. And they must circulate the ball better. That is one way of drawing defensive players out of position. It was moving the ball around in the 1970 final that made Italy lose their defensive shape and create space for that run from Torres.

The move that fetched Torres’ goal came from a group of players who read the situation well as it developed from almost nothing. It is imperative that Neymar does that. He loves running at defenders and, unlike most players of his generation, has the skill to do that. But what he also needs to do is play those little one-twos and create space for his mates. He won’t be allowed to make those long, mazy runs that he loves to.

Neymar is smart enough to realise that and, because in Tite Brazil have a coach unlike some of his recent predecessors who rarely delved deeper, I am sure we will see him pass the ball more on Friday. I just hope his teammates get into good positions so that Neymar finds them and they can create space. Like Jorge Burruchaga did for the winning goal in the 1986 World Cup final.

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What also goes in his favour is that unlike Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar’s Brazil is probably better in terms of quality than his club side. Wouldn’t Messi and Ronaldo give an arm and a leg to have players of the calibre of Philippe Coutinho, Marcelo, Gabriel Jesus, Thiago Silva and Roberto Firmino? That is why I think, for all their shortcomings against Switzerland, we should see an improved performance from Brazil on Friday.

Former Indian football captain Bhaichung Bhutia is writing exclusively for Hindustan Times.

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