Following a disappointing 2018 World Cup campaign that saw title favorites Brazil knocked out in the quarterfinals by Belgium, the Selecao has a new permanent captain.
It’s 26-year-old superstar Neymar. He says he’s earned it because he has grown as a player and a person.
“I accepted [the captaincy] again because I’ve learned a lot and I will learn much more, and this responsibility will be a good thing for me,” Neymar said at a press conference yesterday.
Head coach Tite named the Santos product permanent captain after using a rotation at the World Cup, with veterans Thiago Silva, Miranda and Marcelo all given the opportunity to wear the armband. Neymar refers to “again” because he served as captain during the country’s gold medal journey at the 2016 Olympics. He relinquished his captaincy after the tournament, saying he told Tite he did not wish to be captain, but did not state why.
Now, he returns to the leadership role. However, Neymar knows that he must continue to prove his worth on the pitch because that is ultimately what matters. “My responsibility is even bigger now due to the captaincy but if you don’t play [good] football there’s no need of it.”
The PSG attacker came into the World Cup as a worldwide superstar in European soccer, but also carrying a reputation for theatrics on the field, and he did himself no favors with his World Cup performance. He was often found rolling around on the pitch looking to earn fouls. He was the most-fouled player in the tournament at the time his country was eliminated, and teams seemed to purposely hack Neymar as a strategy for slowing Brazil’s attack.
Neymar’s first match in charge will be tonight’s friendly against the United States at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ.