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FIFA World Cup 2018, Brazil superstar Neymar yet to get his groove back

Closer look at Neymar’s performances at the FIFA World Cup show that the forward is yet to get back to his previous best.

football Updated: Jun 28, 2018 20:26 IST
Shijith P Kunhitty
Shijith P Kunhitty
FIFA World Cup 2018,Brazil football team,Neymar
Brazil's Neymar, left, attempts to shoot past Serbia goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic during the group E match between Serbia and Brazil.(AP)

Brazil’s star player Neymar Jr. was out for a long time this year with injury after hurting his ankle at a French league match for his club Paris St. Germain back in February.

On his comeback for the Brazil national team, he has managed to score only one goal in this World Cup but a lot more is expected of the player who’s meant to deliver the ‘hexa’ or sixth World Cup title to the South American nation.

We take a closer look at Neymar’s performances and the improvement in Brazil’s defensive game in this summary of Thursday’s World Cup matches.

PSG forward Neymar has yet to get back to the form he had before suffering his injury. ( FIFA )

a) Neymar not yet at his peak

If we look at Neymar’s form in the South American World Cup qualifiers for Brazil and compare that to his form in this tournament, we see that he scored six goals in 14 qualifiers for Brazil at an average of 0.4 goals per match. His return of one goal in three matches at this tournament gives him a slightly poorer average of 0.3 goals per match.

The number of assists he makes on average is poorer too, just 0.3 assists per match compared to 0.6 assists per match during the qualifiers. He has been, on average, shooting more on target though, so at least he’s trying!

Since these are his first competitive matches since coming back from injury, it might take him a while to get back to his peak. Hopefully, these group matches will have helped him prepare for Brazil’s crucial knock-out matches coming up.

b) Brazil, the defensive powerhouse?

Brazil’s array of amazing forwards and creative midfielders may get all the attention, but it seems their defenders have been quietly putting in excellent performances game after game.

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If we look at the number of shots on goal conceded by a team in a game and use that as a proxy indicator for how strong its defence is, it seems teams will find it hard to get past Brazil this tournament.

The South American team has let opposition teams have just three shots on goal in the three group matches of this World Cup. If we look at how many shots on goal the team conceded in group stages of previous international tournaments, we can see how much the team has improved as a defensive unit.

Brazil attack is laden with players who can turn a game in an instance. ( FIFA )

The Brazil team let in as many as 13 shots on goal in the group stages of the 2014 World Cup. Compared to the miserly three shots on goal conceded so far at this World Cup, it’s fair to say that Brazil has come a long way since its 7-1 mauling at the hands of Germany!

First Published: Jun 28, 2018 20:14 IST