There was a time not too long ago that a Neymar injury would have derailed Brazil’s hopes of winning the World Cup for a sixth time. The Paris Saint-Germain superstar has carried the weight of his nation for the best part of a decade, but the burden has finally been lifted on the 30-year-old with the star-studded squad head coach Tite now has at his disposal.
That’s why when images of Neymar’s damaged ankle started doing the rounds on popular social media sites there was no mass meltdown from the Selecao’s passionate fanbase. Cast your mind back to 2014, Brazil were soaring on home soil and well on course to challenge for the title — only for Neymar to suffer a back injury against Colombia and the hosts infamously crumbled against Germany in the semi-finals.
Indeed, eight years on and Neymar is still a crucial figure in the Brazil side, but the onus is no longer just on him to deliver the goods on the world stage. The days of having to play alongside Fred and Jo in attack are over, as he now has much better forward partners in the form of Vinicus Junior, Gabriel Jesus, Richarlison, Raphinha, Rodrygo and so on.
But it’s not just the fact that Tite has a wealth of attacking options at his disposal as to why Brazil can survive without Neymar. The Selecao are the favourites in the World Cup winner betting for a reason, and that is because they have one of the most well-rounded squads in the Middle East — with strength and depth in all areas of the pitch.
That has been the downfall for Brazil since they last won the World Cup in 2002. They’ve never had a squad quite as strong as that one in the last two decades, with the likes Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Rivaldo, Cafu, Roberto Carlos, Kaka and Dida not exactly easy to replace. But this current crop of players is arguably just as equip, with Ederson, Alisson, Thiago Silva, Marquinhos, Eder Militao and Bruno Guimaraes just some of the top players alongside those aforementioned attackers.
This is a team more than capable of going all the way and winning the World Cup for a record-extending sixth World Cup for their country, regardless of whether or not Neymar makes it back from injury before the end of the tournament. Of course, having the PSG man back for the knockouts or the latter stages would still be a massive boost and Tite believes there’s still a good chance his World Cup isn’t over.
“Let me tell you something, I believe Neymar and Danilo will be playing the World Cup,” the head coach said.
“Medically and clinically I’m not in the position to speak about those things, but I also have medical reports on my side.”
If you needed any further proof at this stage that Brazil can cope without Neymar, just remember that Brazil won the 2019 Copa America without him — and while there is a big difference in class between South America’s premier international competition and football’s greatest tournament, this team has evolved even further in the last three years and have more than enough firepower to cover Neymar’s absence.