As Brazil squares off against Argentina for the Copa América title, Neymar closes in on Pelé’s tournament scoring record

Neymar closes in on one Pelé’s scoring records.
Neymar closes in on one Pelé’s scoring records.

Note from BBT: When last we saw Neymar the boy wonder, at least on this blog, he was in the middle of huge skirmish on the field in which he accused an opposing player of calling him the ‘’m-word’’. That case eventually blew over with officials denying that Neymar had been called a monkey. Some black Brazilians got their hopes up that the man who had once said he wasn’t black and stayed clear of racial issues, was suddenly taking on a new consciousness.

Some months later, people were disappointed when the superstar apparently made light of an incident that happened on everyone’s favorite reality show, Big Brother Brasil. In that situation, one participant on the program was accused of making a racist comment when he said that the caveman wig he was wearing was similar to the hair of other guy on the program, João, a black man, with an afro. It became another scandal on a reality that has never been short of such moments.

Neymar, for his part, saw it as whining, which, as I wrote, led many viewers to accuse Neymar of being insensitive. The attitude of many was, ‘well, Neymar, if this would have happened to you, you would have claimed it was racism,’ making clear reference to the star being allegedly being called a monkey. Some say he wasn’t even referring to the incident involving João.

In reality I was just kinda like ‘whatever’ as I wrote in my post on the incident that I wouldn’t have taken offense to comments about João’s hair, but that’s just me.

Anyway, as I’m writing this, Neymar and the seleção, Brazil’s national soccer team is facing off against Argentina for the Copa America championship. Not only is Neymar facing off against his former Barcelona teammate, Lionel Messi, but if he manages to score a goal, he will take another step toward breaking an important record currently held by ‘’The King’’.

Neymar closes in on one Pelé’s scoring records.

Neymar, nine goals away from Pelé’s record, cries for Brazil

The striker, who admits to having spent “two difficult years”, is highlighted in the Copa America and is close to becoming the highest scorer in the history of the national team

With information courtesy of UOL, Gazeta Esportiva, and El País

Adenor Leonardo Bacchi, aka Tite, coach of Brazil’s national team, gives instructions to Neymar in the Copa America match against Peru

“It’s very difficult being Neymar.” Edu Gaspar, Brazil’s former national team coordinator, was justifying the main Brazilian player after the defeat against Belgium in the quarterfinals of the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Four years earlier in Brazil, when he was vying for Ayrton Senna’s throne as the great idol, the No. 10 was sidelined from the World Cup due to a fractured lumbar vertebra. In the 2019 Copa América, he had no revenge: another injury, this time in the right ankle ligament.

Whenever he wore the jersey of the main national team, things didn’t work out. In the way of the number 10, now appeared another Copa America at home. He didn’t expect it, nor did he want it, but he is trying again. And, true to his class, he scored a goal in the opening game against Venezuela, and another in the game against Peru. He already has 68 goals for the Brazilian national team and is now nine goals away from the record of the great Pelé.

“My dream has always been to wear this shirt. I never imagined I would reach these numbers,” Neymar said on the sidelines after the match against Peru. However, his voice was choked. He couldn’t hold back his tears. A surprising image in front of his usual laughter, which you never know if it is laughter or mockery. “For me, it’s kind of emotional, because I’ve been through a lot in these two years. Very difficult and complicated things,” he added.

In Brazil, Edu Gaspar’s words were echoed again. In 2019, Neymar was accused of rape by model Najila Trindade. The case was dismissed for lack of evidence. This year, Nike confirmed that it terminated its sponsorship contract with Neymar because the player “refused to cooperate in a good faith investigation into credible allegations of misconduct brought forward by a female employee,” according to the American company.

Neymar defended himself on social media. “I never had any relationship [with the employee]. I didn’t even have the opportunity to talk, to know the real reasons for her pain,” the PSG striker wrote. Today, Neymar has a contract with Puma. He never lost the support of the Parisian club -which renewed his contract until 2025- or the Brazilian national team. Tite is devoted to Neymar. He protects him on and off the field. “I don’t know how far Neymar can go. I really hope that he is always healthy, doesn’t get injured and has maturity,” emphasized the coach.

Tite’s support is not a small detail. Injuries have hindered the striker’s performance. In the last four seasons, he has suffered 16 and missed 78 games. PSG, in any case, doesn’t doubt him, giving him the key to the team again. Not only has it renewed his contract, but it also supports him in the dressing room. “Ney has to have a goal,” say those around the player. The same sources cite as an example the 2019-2020 campaign, when Neymar led PSG to the Champions League final for the first time in its history. “When the competition was interrupted by the pandemic, Neymar traveled to his home in Rio. There, he continued with a very strict training plan. He was motivated with the Champions,” highlights one of them.

The 2020-2021 season was uncomfortable for Neymar. It was hindered by his injuries, four (19 games out), and the team’s low performance, which left PSG without Ligue 1, without the French Cup, and also without Champions. After all that, number 10 wanted to rest. Or, at least, not to take the Copa America too seriously. But, when he least expected (wished), President Jair Bolsonaro and Conmebol, the South American Football Confederation, brought the tournament to Brazil.

And more responsibility for Neymar: “We didn’t know if there was going to be a Copa América. From the beginning we have been very respectful of our hierarchies. We will never say no to the national jersey,” said Neymar. About his 68 goals for the national team, he said: “These numbers are nothing compared to the happiness I have playing for Brazil, representing my country and my family. We are living a very atypical moment all over the world, not only here, and to be a mirror for someone is an enormous joy. I hope that everyone who loves soccer is proud.

He is not the only one smiling. “I, like all Brazilians, am always happy when I see him playing soccer. Today he took another step towards my record of goals for the national team. And I hope he gets there, with the same joy I have had since I saw him play for the first time,” Pelé wrote.

Neymar is chasing Pelé. On the way, however, he has to chase away his ghosts.

Three of Brazil’s great, Romário, Pelé and Ronaldo have better scoring averages than Neymar

Close to record, Neymar is worse than Pelé, Ronaldo and Romário against greats

Neymar entered the field on Monday (5), against one of his main victims, Peru, in the Engenhão stadium, not only to reach the final of the Copa America, but also in search of getting even closer to the historic top scorer of the Brazilian national team. However, the current number 10 has scored, on average, fewer goals against the greats of world soccer than his competitors.

With 68 goals wearing the Brazilian jersey, in over 109 matches (0.62 per game), Neymar scored nine times against the powers, in 24 games, an average of 0.37 goals per duel. Pelé, holder of the record in official matches, with 77 goals in 92 matches (0.81 per game), leaked the goal of the greats in 18 opportunities, in 25 matches, an average of 0.72 per match.

The report considers as “great” all the world champions – Germany, Italy, Argentina, France, England, Uruguay and Spain – plus the Netherlands, which reached three World Cup finals. And Ronaldo and Romário also have a higher goal average than Neymar against these teams. The former number 9 scored 16 goals in 24 games (0.66 average), while the former 11 scored 7 times in 15 games (0.46).

Both were recently surpassed by Neymar as Brazil’s all-time top scorer. Ronaldo scored 62 goals for the green and yellow jersey, while Romário scored 55, according to Fifa’s figures. The duo, on the other hand, also has better numbers than the current number 10 in what is always the main confrontation of the selection, against the Argentines.

Against Argentina, Brazil’s archrival, Neymar took the field 10 times and scored three goals. All the competitors have a better average than the PSG star in the Superclásico das Américas. Pelé faced the same number of duels, but scored on 8 occasions. Ronaldo also had a great record against the Argentineans, with 5 goals in 6 matches. Romário scored one in three matches.

Rivaling Brazil in the semifinal of the Copa America on Monday, Peru is one of Neymar’s main victims – five goals in six matches. The last one was recently, in the first round of the continental competition, a 4-0 victory, when the striker scored and was voted the best on the field.

Numbers for the national team:

Against the greats

Pelé: 18 goals in 25 games (0.72 per game)

Neymar: 9 goals in 24 games (0.37 per game)

Ronaldo: 16 goals in 24 games (0.66 per game)

Romário: 7 goals in 15 games (0.46 per match)

Historical Ranking

Pelé: 77 goals in 95 games (0.81 per game)

Neymar: 68 goals in 109 games (0.62 per match)

Ronaldo: 62 goals in 98 games (0.63 per match)

Romário: 55 goals in 70 games (0.78 per game)

Pelé and Neymar both began their careers with Santos

Pelé talks about Neymar approaching his record: “I’m cheering for him to get there”.

On Thursday, as the Brazilian team beat Peru 4-0, in a match valid for the second round of Copa América. …approaching the record of Pelé, who expressed himself on Instagram after the game.

The King, who has 77 goals for the Seleção, according to Fifa’s data, assured that he is rooting for Neymar to reach him as the highest scorer in the history of the country’s most celebrated team.

“Every time I see this boy, he’s smiling. It’s impossible not to smile back. It’s contagious. I, as well as all Brazilians, am always happy when I see him play ball. Today he took another step towards my record of goals for the National Team. And I am rooting for him to get there, with the same joy I have had since I saw him play for the first time,” wrote Pelé.

Source:  UOL, Gazeta Esportiva, and El País

About Marques Travae 3721 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

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