Brazilian superstar Neymar was ruled out of this summer’s Copa America with an ankle injury earlier this month.
The 27-year-old’s season has been plagued with injuries and he will be gutted to have missed out on the tournament.
As hosts, Brazil are expected to win the competition and many would have predicted Neymar to lead the Seleção to glory.
So far the hosts seem to be thriving without their key star. Brazil managed to win convincingly against Bolivia with the likes of Everton and Coutinho scoring.
Here are some of the reasons why the South American giants are probably better off without Neymar this summer.
The PSG and Brazil attacker is under investigation because of the rape allegations that have been levelled against him.
Earlier this month, Neymar took to Instagram to announce that the friendly game against Qatar would be one of the most difficult matches of his career because of the distractions off the pitch.
If he had stayed fit, there would have been unnecessary media attention on the player and the side. Other players would have to face questions regarding the allegations and that can only unsettle the morale in the group.
Although Neymar is a world class player to have in the side, the team is better off without these distractions heading into a major tournament.
Brazil have named Willian as Neymar’s replacement for the Copa America. The Chelsea ace is a much more rounded player as compared to Neymar.
Willian is a hardworking player who contributes at both ends of the pitch. His defensive work-rate adds more cover to the full backs and allows Brazil to harass the opposition midfielders and full backs with high-intensity pressing.
So far, Tite seems to rely on David Neres as his starter. The Ajax attacker has grown up learning the Johan Cruyff style of play. He is adept at the pass and move game and his tactical pressing is much better than that of Neymar.
The front four of Coutinho, Firmino, Neres and Richarlison are much more in sync because of how they play all year for their clubs. Barcelona, Liverpool, Ajax and Everton all prefer high intensity pressing football and without Neymar, they are able to replicate this for the national team now.
Even the likes of Gabriel Jesus are used to this style of football.
Neymar’s presence often compromises Brazil defensively and without his pressing, the Seleção resort to another style of play.
The 7-0 against Honduras and the 3-0 against Bolivia showcased some of the best high intensity football Brazil have played in a while.
Lack of sharpness
Availability is one of the most key attributes in a footballer. If a world class footballer misses half the games in his career due to injuries, it is hardly a bonus having him in the side.
Neymar’s career has been plagued with injuries since he joined PSG.
The Brazilian missed 26 games (via Transfermarkt) for the French champions this past season and even if he didn’t pick up the ankle ligament injury before Copa America, he would be severely lacking in match fitness.
Simply put, Neymar wouldn’t be at his best.
Match fitness is often underrated but it has a big influence on the performance of players. Pace, aggression, speed of thought, confidence to approach complex situations during the game can all depend on match fitness.
Neymar’s lack of sharpness would have affected the team negatively. Brazil are much better off with players like Neres, Richarlison and Firmino who have played most of their available games this season.