If you want a preview of exactly what to expect from Neymar at the World Cup, I give you highlights of Paris Saint-Germain's 6-2 friendly win over Gamba Osaka on Monday morning at Suita City Stadium in Japan.
The 30-year-old looks sharp and highly motivated heading into the 2022-23 season, but after again missing a significant chunk of time last campaign, avoiding another moment where his ankle gets chopped and goes horizontal to the ground will be key with Qatar on the horizon. His style of play — squaring up the defender one-on-one and inviting a lunge — always invites the foul and potential injury, but it's also poetry in motion.
caralho neymar, soltinho pic.twitter.com/3OrbtTUn1Y— neymar jr deprê (@neymarjrdepre) July 25, 2022
There are very few ways of stopping an in-form Neymar. Brazil manager Tite knows it — he's already spoken of how he's going to deploy Neymar as a centrally-operating playmaker at the World Cup — but group opponents Serbia, Switzerland and Cameroon also know it. They're going to respond by taking a piece out of him at every turn. If they don't, Neymar's going to tear them apart on the dribble before picking out Richarlison, Vini Jr and Gabriel Jesus.
Neymar's going to get fouled, but we all know he's also going to get lightly grazed before putting on a Tony Award-winning performance. It's so predictable that even when it's only a preseason friendly against Osaka, you know it's coming.
Neymar sold this one pretty well en route to a penalty for PSG. pic.twitter.com/Pww5lTqHbn— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) July 25, 2022
With his reputation, the dive becomes all anyone wants to talk about — so much so that Neymar immediately took to Twitter and defended himself.
Fantasma? ge sendo ge … tocou é pênalti!
Bando de gente que nunca se quer chutou uma bola e fica fazendo matéria de merda ♂️— Neymar Jr (@neymarjr) July 25, 2022
"Ghost penalty?" Neymar replied to a tweet from Globoesporte (GE). "GE being GE... if you get touched, it's a penalty! Bunch of people who have never kicked a ball and keep writing shitty articles!"
✋ careta pros HATE pic.twitter.com/GgPmMTlPUt— Neymar Jr (@neymarjr) July 25, 2022
Lost in it all was a good finish from Lionel Messi's through ball and Neymar returning the favor for Messi, but that's Neymar's existence — the chaos clouds the quality.
Gol do Neymar no amistoso de hoje pic.twitter.com/9G870M9TCa— neymar jr deprê (@neymarjrdepre) July 25, 2022
— EhsaN (@EhsaN_PSG) July 25, 2022
PSG's season gets started Sunday with the Trophée des Champions against Nantes in Tel Aviv.