Pele’s ‘Top Goal Scorer Record for Brazil’ equalled by Neymar at World Cup 2022 | Sunday Observer

Pele’s ‘Top Goal Scorer Record for Brazil’ equalled by Neymar at World Cup 2022

1 January, 2023
Neymar da Silva Santos
Neymar da Silva Santos

Neymar da Silva Santos Junior is a professional footballer who plays as a forward for the Brazil National team and Ligue 1 club Paris Saint-Germain. A prolific goal scorer and renowned playmaker, he is regarded as one of the best players in the world. Neymar has scored at least one hundred goals for three different clubs (Santos – 177 in 107 matches, Barcelona – 123 in 68 matches and PSG –106 in 80 matches), making him one of three players to achieve the feat.

At the FIFA World Cup 2022 Neymar played in Brazil’s first match on November 24, for 79 minutes, a 2–0 win against Serbia, but was unable to play the next two group games due to an ankle ligament injury. Neymar recovered to play against South Korea in the ‘Round of 16’ on December 5, where he assisted the opening goal and scored a penalty in a 4–1 win.

On December 9, Neymar playing in his 124th international match in the quarter-final match against Croatia, scored his 77th international goal for Brazil to become the joint ‘Top Goal Scorer’ for his National team alongside legendary Pele. Brazil, however, were defeated in the penalty shootout following a 1–1 draw in extra time.

Neymar finished third for the FIFA Ballon d’Or in 2015 and 2017, won the FIFA Puskas Award, named in the FIFA FIFPro World11 twice, the UEFA Team of the Year twice, and the UEFA Champions League Squad of the Season three times. Off the pitch, he ranks among the world’s most prominent athletes.

SportsPro named him the most marketable athlete in the world in 2012 and 2013. ESPN cited him as the world’s fourth-most famous athlete in 2016. Time included him in its annual list of the ‘100 Most Influential People in the World,’ in 2017. France Football ranked Neymar the world’s third highest-paid footballer in 2018. Forbes ranked him the world’s third highest-paid athlete in 2019.

Player Profile

Neymar primarily plays as either a central striker, second striker, winger or occasionally as an attacking midfielder. He often plays as a left sided forward for both club and country in the team’s 4–3–3 formation, drifting infield, due to his energetic pace and playmaking skills. This position allows him to shoot with his stronger foot, or create chances for teammates.

His main traits are his creativity, vision, passing, finishing, dribbling, feints, touch, and technique, being described as both “electric” and “explosive.” He is a notable exponent of the rainbow flick. A prolific goal scorer, although naturally right-footed, he is capable of scoring with both feet, as well as with his head, and is an accurate free-kick and penalty taker.

After joining Barcelona, Neymar consequently established himself as one of the best players in world football. The media have often drawn comparisons between Neymar and Brazilian legend Pele, as Neymar possesses similar attributes and like Pele came from the Santos Youth Academy and turned heads with his skill.

Birth and Growth

Neymar da Silva Santos Junior was born on February 5, 1992 in Mogi das Cruzes, Sao Paulo, to Neymar Santos Sr. and Nadine da Silva. His father was a former footballer. In Neymar’s Portuguese name, the first or maternal family name is Silva and the second or paternal family name is Santos.

He had a Christian upbringing. Neymar combined his love of futsal had a massive influence on developing his technique, speed of thought and ability to perform moves in tight spaces. In 2003, Neymar moved to Sao Vicente, where he began playing for youth side Portuguesa Santista. Then, moved to Santos, where Neymar joined Santos.

Neymar came into prominence at Santos (2009-2013), where he made his professional debut at 17. He helped the club win two successive Campeonato Paulista championships, a Copa do Brazil, and the 2011 Copa Libertadores. Neymar was twice named the South American Footballer of the Year in 2011 and 2012.

He joined Barcelona in 2013, and as part of Barcelona’s attacking trio with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, dubbed MSN, he won the continental treble of La Liga, the Copa del Rey, and the UEFA Champions League.

Motivated to be a talisman at club level, Neymar transferred to PSG in 2017 in a move worth €222 million, making him the most expensive player ever. In France, he won four league titles and was voted Ligue 1 Player of the Year in his debut season. Notably, he helped PSG attain a domestic quadruple in the 2019–20 season, and led the club to its first ever Champions League Final.

Neymar has a son, Davi Lucca, born on August 13, 2011, with former girlfriend Carolina Dantas. In addition to his native Portuguese, Neymar also speaks Spanish.

International Career

On July 26, 2010, Neymar was selected for the first time in the Brazil senior team for a friendly against the United States. On August 10, 2010 he made his debut with the national team aged eighteen, starting the match wearing number 11 jersey. He scored on his debut after 28 minutes, a header coming from an Andre Santos cross in a 2–0 win for Brazil.

On March 27, 2011, he scored twice in a 2–0 win against Scotland. Neymar was the leading goal scorer of the 2011 South American Youth Championship with nine goals, including two in the final, in Brazil’s 6–0 win against Uruguay. He also took part at the 2011 Copa America in Argentina, where he scored two goals against Ecuador. He was selected ‘Man of the Match’ in Brazil’s first match against Venezuela, which ended a 1–1 draw.

Neymar was selected for the Brazil Olympic football team to participate in London 2012 Olympic Games. In Brazil’s first warm-up match against the host Great Britain, Neymar was involved in both goals of a 2–0 win.

Neymar scored his first goal of the 2012 Summer Olympics in Brazil’s opening fixture against Egypt, which ended in a 3–2 victory for Brazil. In the following against Belarus, Neymar scored a free-kick from 25-yards into the top-right corner of the goal and set up the two remaining goals as Brazil secured their place in the quarter-finals with a 3–1 win.

On August 5, in the quarter-final encounter against Honduras, Neymar scored a penalty, his third goal of the tournament and assisted the second goal, to help Brazil to a 3–2 victory and book a place in the semi-finals. On August 11, Brazil lost 2–1 to Mexico in the final.

Neymar scored his first full international hat-trick on September 10, 2012, in an 8–0 win over China. On September 19, Neymar scored the winner against Argentina in a 2–1 victory for Brazil.

In the FIFA Confederations Cup 2013, Neymar scored the first goal in a 3–0 win over Japan in the first match. In the second, Neymar scored after nine minutes to give Brazil a 2–0 win over Mexico. In the third, he scored once more to beat Italy 4–2, and received three consecutive ‘Man of the Match’ awards. After a 3–0 victory over Spain in the final, Neymar received the Golden Ball for the Player of the Tournament.

World Cup 2014

On March 5, 2014, Neymar scored a hat-trick in a win against South Africa. Neymar was named in the Brazil squad for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Going into the tournament, as the team’s star Neymar was expected to lead Brazil to their sixth World Cup and first on home soil. One week prior to the team’s opening match, Neymar scored once and made two assists in a 4–0 win over Panama.

Neymar earned his 50th international cap in the opening match of the tournament, on June 12, against Croatia. In the 26th minute, Neymar elbowed Croatian midfielder Luka Modric, after which Neymar was issued a yellow card. He scored the first goal and gave Brazil the lead with a penalty kick, to record an eventual 3–1 win.

In the third group match, he again scored twice as the Seleçao defeated Cameroon 4–1 to reach the knockout stage. In the ‘Round of 16’ against Chile, the match finished 1–1 and was decided by a penalty shoot-out with Neymar scoring what proved to be the winning kick for Brazil.

In the quarter-final win over Colombia, Neymar was kneed in the back by Juan Camilo Zun and had to be removed from the pitch on a stretcher. A hospital scan revealed that Neymar had suffered a fractured vertebra in his spine and he missed the rest of the World Cup.

Earlier in the match, Neymar assisted Thiago Silva’s opening goal with a cross from a corner kick. It was the second Neymar assist from a corner in the tournament, after creating David Luiz’s goal in the previous round against Chile. Brazil lost the semi-final 1-7 to Germany.

Neymar was named on the 10-man shortlist for FIFA’s Golden Ball and won the Bronze Boot as the tournament’s third top goal scorer and was included in the World Cup All Star XI.

Neymar was appointed captain of Brazil on a permanent basis on September 5, 2014. He scored four goals in a game for the first time for Brazil on October 14, 2014, to win 4–0 against Japan. At 22, Neymar had scored forty goals in fifty-eight internationals.

On March 26, 2015, Neymar scored Brazil’s second goal in a 3–1 friendly win over France. On June 14, 2015, in Brazil’s opening Copa America fixture, Neymar scored the equaliser for Brazil to beat Peru 2–1.

Olympic Games Rio 2016

Neymar was one of the three over-23 players to be included in Brazil’s squad for the 2016 Summer Olympics on home soil, and was later named the team’s captain.

In Brazil’s quarter-final clash with Colombia on August 13, Neymar scored Brazil’s first goal from a direct free kick, and set up his nation’s second goal in an eventual 2–0 win. In Brazil’s semi-final clash with Honduras, Neymar scored twice, Brazil’s first and last goals of the match in a 6–0 win.

In the final against Germany in Rio on August 20, Neymar opened the scoring with a free-kick after 27 minutes. The game finished 1–1 after Max Meyer equalised in the second-half. Brazil beat Germany 5–4 on penalties, and Neymar scored the winning penalty to bring Brazil its first Olympic gold medal in men’s football. Neymar renounced the captaincy following their Olympic victory.

World Cup 2018

At the 2018 World Cup in Russia, on June 3, 2018, he made his international comeback after a three-month absence from a foot injury and scored a goal in a 2–0 win over Croatia in a friendly match. The following week, he became Brazil’s joint-third highest goal scorer alongside Romario when he scored his 55th international goal in a 3–0 friendly win over Austria.

In Brazil’s second World Cup match, played against Costa Rica on June 22, Neymar scored the team’s second goal in injury time as Brazil won 2–0. The goal, his 56th for Brazil, took him third in the all-time scoring chart behind only Pele and Ronaldo.

On July 2, Neymar scored his second goal of the World Cup in a 2–0 win over Mexico in the last sixteen, while also assisting for the second goal. Brazilian newspaper O Globo wrote that “Neymar has charmed Brazil, but annoyed the whole world.”On July 6, Brazil was eliminated after losing 2–1 against Belgium in the quarter-finals, with Neymar denied an injury time equaliser.

World Cup 2022

In May 2019, Neymar was included in Brazil’s squad for the 2019 Copa America on home soil but he suffered an ankle injury in a 2–0 win over Qatar and missed four weeks due to an injury.

On October 10, 2019, Neymar played his 100th match for Brazil in a draw 1–1 with Senegal. On October 13, 2020, he scored a hat-trick in a 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Peru, which Brazil won 4–2. He reached his 64th international goal and surpassed Ronaldo as the nation’s second highest goal scorer of all time.

On June 13, 2021, in Brazil’s opening match of the 2021 Copa America, in home soil, Neymar scored his team’s second goal in a 3–0 win over Venezuela. In the following match on June 17, he once again scored the second goal in a 4–0 win over Peru.

On June 23, he assisted the match–winning goal from a corner in injury time of a 2–1 win over Colombia. On July 2, he assisted the only goal in a 1–0 win over Chile in the quarter-finals of the competition. Three days later, he once again assisted the only goal of the match in the semi-finals against Peru.

On July 10, Brazil was defeated 0-1 by Argentina in the final, yet Neymar was named the ‘Player of the Tournament’ alongside Argentina’s Lionel Messi for his performances. On September 9, 2021, Neymar scored the second goal in a 2–0 win over Peru and became Brazil’s all-time top scorer in FIFA World Cup qualification matches, with twelve goals.

Individual Awards

Campeonato Brasileiro Serie A Team of the Year in 2010, 2011 and 2012; Chuteira de Ouro in 2010, 2011 and 2012; Bola de Prata in 2010 and 2011; Bola de Ouroin in 2011; Campeonato Brasileiro Serie A Best Player in 2011; World Soccer Young Player of the Year in 2011; Copa Libertadores Most Valuable Player in 2011; FIFA Club World Cup Bronze Ball in 2011; South American Footballer of the Year in 2011 and 2012; FIFA Puskas Award in 2011; Bola de Ouro Hors Concours in 2012; FIFA Confederations Cup Golden Ball in 2013; FIFA Confederations Cup Bronze Shoe in 2013; FIFA Confederations Cup Dream Team in 2013; FIFA World Cup Bronze Boot in 2014; FIFA World Cup Dream Team in 2014; Samba Gold in 2014, 2015, 2017, 2020 and 2021; UEFA Champions League Squad of the Season in 2014/15, 2019/20 and 2020/21; La Liga Best World Player in 2014/15; La Liga Player of the Month in November 2015; UNFP Ligue 1 Player of the Year in 2017/18; UNFP Ligue 1 Team of the Year in 2017/18, 2018/19 and 2020/21; UNFP Ligue 1 Player of the Month January 2020 and August 2022; UEFA Team of the Year in 2015 and 2020; FIFA FIFPro World 11 in 2015 and 2017; IFFHS Men’s World Team in 2017; ESM Team of the Year in 2017/18; IFFHS CONMEBOL Team of the Decade 2011/2020; Copa America Team of the Tournament in 2021.

(The author is an Associate Professor, International Scholar, winner of Presidential Awards and multiple National Accolades for Academic pursuits. He possesses a PhD, MPhil, and double MSc. His email is [email protected])