Although his tournament may be over in his homeland this summer after suffering a sickening tackle from Colombian Juan Camilo Zuniga that saw the 22 year old Barcelona and Brazil front man fracture one of the vertebra in his spine, Neymar has stood out as one of the top players at the Brasil 2014 competition. His four goals and one assist in his debut tournament as he stood head and shoulders above his team-mates in his homeland has led to Neymar-fever amongst the partisan home support as well as him being compared with some of the greats of Brazil throughout history.
For people of a certain age, myself included, the greatest of all Brazil’s strikers was Ronaldo who burst onto the international football scene at France ’98 as he led Brazil to the final of the competition and with Neymar having done the same at Brasil 2014 we compare the impact of these two players in their debut major world football tournaments.
In Front of Goal:
This summer has seen Neymar net four goals in five matches in his homeland as Brazil cruised through Group A, then snuck past Chile in the last 16 stage and edged out Colombia in the Quarter Finals before his tournament came to an end. His goals came in spurts as he scored twice against Croatia in the opening match of the competition and then added his third and fourth goals against Cameroon to secure passage to the knockout stages. While he did not score in either of the knockout stage games Neymar did create goals in both matches against Chile and Colombia to make him an invaluable part of the Brazilian front line.
Ronaldo’s goalscoring record in France 16 years ago was matched by the heir to his crown in their homeland this summer as the then 21 year old netted four goals and created three in seven matches. He bagged a goal against Morocco in the group stage before scoring twice in the 4-1 win over Chile in the last 16 stage as well as Brazil’s only goal in the 1-1 draw against the Netherlands in the semi finals. He stepped up and converted the first penalty in the shootout too. However, unlike Neymar this summer, Ronaldo was not the only player contributing goals to the side as Bebeto, who can be seen double bluffing his former team-mate and now PokerStars ambassador who has been promoting the new mobile app in his homeland in the build up to this tournament, César Sampaio and Rivaldo all added three goals to the tally too.
Main Talking Point:
Apart from the fact that both of these players have lit up their debut tournaments with goals and exceptional performances, especially Ronaldo who won the Golden Ball as best player at the tournament, the main talking point about both players is their injury issues.
FIFA opened an investigation into the challenge that saw Neymar stretchered off the field with a fractured spine while Ronaldo is the more controversial of the two. The former Real Madrid, Barcelona, AC Milan and Inter Milan striker was dropped from the team for final in France in 1998 after having a seizure, yet he made a recovery that allowed him to play despite being nowhere fit enough to do so. As a result of this, France defeated a subdued Brazilian side 3-0 in the final to claim their first ever trophy.