A nation's hopes rest on the shoulders of a kid from the streets of Sao Paulo
This week a five second video clip raced around the internet of Neymar training with the Brazil team. He rolled his ankle. The video slows down for the best possible look at the injury, graphics circle the point at which he falls and the world watched as he limped away. Neymar played last night, but the sheer ferocity of the interest in his fitness demonstrates just how important this footballing icon is to Brazil's hopes at this tournament.
Last night, Neymar showcased his capabilities the way every striker should – with two goals. Throughout the match he was a constant thorn in the side of the Croatian defence, harrying and pressing, twisting and turning. He's ghostly, impossible to pick up and deceptively quick, often leaving defenders for dead. His first goal came at a time when Brazil needed it most, having fallen behind after 11 minutes. His second, a penalty, required nerves of steel and after a long run up, he dispatched it beyond the reach of Stipe Pletikosa.
Just 22, the prodigy is barely out of teenhood but his infinite ability and undeniable flair has elevated him to the position of Brazil's star striker. In 2011, aged just 19, he won the South American Footballer of the Year award and the foundations were set for Neymar da Silva Santos Jr to enshrine his name into the DNA of Brazilian football.
As well as playing for Brazil and Barcelona, Neymar is also a member of Nike FC, who've supported him throughout his journey from Santos to stardom. Their motto, "Sem risco não há vitória," translates to "without risk there is no victory," a concise manifesto that embodies Neymar's approach to football – skill, speed and samba style. For a history of Nike FC, the team that represents passion, honour and a willingness to give everything to the cause, click here.
Neymar might play the beautiful game, but he is the equivalent of a rock icon. Boyishly good looking with a unique talent (see the video below for evidence) and an uncanny physical resemblance to Rufio, the leader of the Lost Boys in Hook, Neymar is a mysterious and magical player, a totem for the spirit of Brazilian football, a boy who looks anything but lost on the pitch.
This month Neymar has the opportunity to announce himself as one of the world's true greats, no longer a kid with potential, nor a player who has peaked, but a man in the midst of a moment. The eyes of the world are on him as he carries the dreams of a country through each game. This tournament must be his.