Neymar Jr

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The Paris Saint-Germain striker has been a revelation for the French giants since his world record summer switch from Barcelona and hopefully is aiming to fire Brazil to a record sixth title when the tournament gets underway in Russia

Before his injury in February, Neymar Jr has sent a warning to Brazil’s rivals by revealing he is a better player heading into the 2018 FIFA World Cup than he was four years ago, but we can only ask will he be ready for the world championship? In 2014 on home soil Neymar Jr helped the hosts overcome Chile and Colombia before a devastating injury prevented him taking the field in the 7:1 semi-final defeat by eventual winners Germany. His four goals in the tournament still saw him finish third in the Golden Boot but with 53 goals now to his name, hot on the heels of Pele’s national record of 77, he believes he can make his mark once again. He said: ‘The difference is hard to explain, but I think I’m more experienced, more wise, more ‘cascudo’ (an expression meaning ‘tougher’), as we say in Brazil. This is because I had many experiences, I participated in a World Cup where we lost and I think I’ll be more prepared for the next one, because I know what it is like to be in a World Cup, I can be better prepared. So the Neymar Jr in 2018 is better than the Neymar Jr in 2014.’

Neymar Jr
Brazil head to Russia as one of the tournament favourites. Among them are Germany, France, Spain and Argentina

Brazil head to Russia as one of the tournament favourites, but must first overcome Switzerland, Costa Rica and Serbia in Group E. As for other favourites beyond the normal suspects, the 26-year-old picked out Roberto Martinez’s Belgium as ones to watch, as well as Liverpool star Mohamed Salah of Egypt. ‘I think the best-known teams are the favourites, as always. Among them are Brazil, Germany, France, Spain, Argentina’, said Neymar Jr. These teams will be the highlights in any championship. And for the surprise, I think Belgium has an excellent team and can be a surprise in this Cup. Salah (from Egypt) is also a great player who can make a difference in the World Cup. There is no easy selection to play so I think every game will be very difficult, that’s why it’s called the World Cup, right? The best selections in the world and every game is hard.’ In terms of his club form, PSG is dominating the French Ligue 1 table and the transition, it seems, has been a seamless one. He explained: ‘The adaptation to the French League was quick because the European style is very similar everywhere, so there is not much difference between the leagues. I think the Brazilian players in Paris helped me a lot here, all the guys from our team (in general), the Spaniards, they have all helped me in the adaptation and it is getting easier for me. ‘No parlez Français’. I try to talk because I’m shameless, so I’m learning. I understand a lot of what people say, but I don’t speak the language yet.’

Neymar Jr
‘I know what it is like to be in a World Cup, I can be better prepared. So the Neymar Jr in 2018 is better than the Neymar Jr in 2014’

The road to the third Neymar Jr’s Five World Final has already begun with players from more than 60 countries and six continents set to battle it out for global glory under the watchful eye of the man himself. It is a fast, technical and fun competition that will be held in July. Mixed teams can continue in 2018 but, for the first time ever, there will be an all-women’s tournament in the same format of 10 minutes of intense action, no goalkeepers and teams losing a player every time the opposition scores. Neymar Jr said: ‘I’m very happy to increase the number of players, the number of teams signing up and the number of countries has also increased. It’s very big but I hope it can get even bigger. We have more teams than the World Cup, which has 32 teams. What makes me really excited is that each edition brings more players from more countries so I’m glad to know that everyone wants to participate, and I feel happy to be part of it.’

Photos by Marcelo Maragni/Red Bull Content Pool and Nike

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