In the name of Pelé: Neymar dedicates win to former star, whose record he tries to beat

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Is there a better feeling to score for your country at the FIFA World Cup? Some would say no. For Brazil’s stars, it is a definite negative answer. The competition is enshrined in the lore of the South American powerhouse’s history, as they are the team with the largest number of titles in the competition – five.

They have long aimed to make it six, since one of their best generations ever lifted the trophy in 2002, in the first-ever edition of the FIFA World Cup held in Asia, in Japan and the Republic of Korea. Now, as the tournament is back in Asia, and for the first time in the Middle East, Brazil are uniquely positioned to win the trophy once again.

And many of their hopes are relying on their Number 10, Neymar, a transcendental talent, whose career has been watched under a microscope since he was only 12 years old, earmarked as the next best thing coming out from Brazil since Ronaldo.

For Neymar, the FIFA World Cup has definitely been a tournament where he could shine, as he scored seven goals already and is the 33rd best scorer in history, with a chance of progressing even further. He had already scored at Brazil 2014 and Russia 2018, before delivering another excellent performance at Qatar 2022.

Now, at the peak of his powers, aged 30 years old, Neymar can finally fulfil his destiny, as Brazil are definitely favourites and brought back their trademark “Joga Bonito”, a carefree style, with plenty of flair, speed and creativity that captures the minds of the fans, who are waiting to see what will get out of the box.

But for Neymar, the 2022 FIFA World Cup is also the stage where he can write history for Brazil, not only winning the trophy, but also setting his name in stone for eternity.

For over 50 years, the record for the largest number of goals scored in Brazil’s history has been held by Pelé, widely considered to be one of the best, if not the best-ever football player the world has ever seen.

Pelé scored 77 goals in 92 games between July 1957 and July 1971, in a career that saw him become the most decorated player in history at the FIFA World Cup, winning the trophy three times, in 1958, 1962 and 1970.

Going into this World Cup, Neymar is a few months short of his 31st birthday, nearly the same age as Pele when he retired from international football in 1971. When Pele first played for Brazil they had not a single world title to their name. Half a century later, Brazil has five titles.

“In my opinion, Neymar is the key player for Brazil and I need everybody needs to play for him, he is very important for Brazil,” said Pele.

Now, with the penalty converted against the Republic of Korea, Neymar moved closer to tying Pelé in the all-time goal scorer standings for Brazil, needing only two goals to leapfrog his model, who also played for Brazilian giants Santos at club level in the start of his career.

With the goal against their Asian counterparts, Neymar, who features at club level now for Paris Saint-Germain, also became only the third Brazilian player in history after legends Pelé and Ronaldo to score at three different FIFA World Cup editions.

“I played for Santos and so did he, but I believe from a technical point of view, he is the best player of the world. Without a shadow of a doubt, as a complete player, he is one of the best now

With Pelé currently hospitalised in Brazil, due to illness, Neymar also took the time to celebrate the achievements of his idol, taking a banner with the former star’s face from the iconic 1970 World Cup, which Pele and Brazil won.

“It’s difficult to talk about the moment that Pelé is going through. I wish him all the best and hope he gets back in good health as soon as possible, that he could have taken comfort today with the victory and seen the banner we raised for him,” said Neymar.

“God willing…I hope to get past him. I’m going to talk to my teammates about it and tell them to help me score so I can finally get there,” added the Brazilian star before the start of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

The comparison between Neymar and Pelé will surely not yield any result, with the elder fans saying there is no chance the understudy will pass the master. But for younger fans, it is clear that Neymar is the preferred choice.

The conclusion? Well, let’s just wait and see what Neymar does in the next phases of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Another win would certainly cement his legacy. But if Brazil do not lift the trophy, Pelé would have won “the game”.

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