“Neymar will become the top goalscorer in Brazil’s history, surpassing Pele. It wouldn’t hurt if Neymar leapfrogged me in the list. I left my mark on history and now it’s his turn.”

Romario

The World Cup Qualifiers in South America is wild and crazy – unpredictable. Artistry. Hostility. Suffocating environment. Variety in opponents who always pose a challenge of different levels.

The easy matches are hard to come by. It is a complete package, which never lets your heart calm down for a single moment. Football – the beautiful game and game of the people become a marvelous cocktail of artistry and toughness in Latin America.

A few days ago, Brazil – the masters of the game completed a route against Bolivia at Sao Paulo; but in Lima, Peru, they were almost taken to the limits of their skill and temperament by the Peruvians.

The Peruvians, who lost to Brazil at the Maracana Stadium in that final of Copa America, drew their first game of the qualifiers 2-2 against Paraguay in Asuncion.

In 47 previous encounters between the two sides, Brazil have an overwhelming advantage. They have won 33 games against Peru, having lost only five. The two teams have played nine draws against each other.

Even though, Peru have been hit by two positive COVID-19 cases within their ranks, with their striker Raul Ruidiaz being one of those who are ruled out and their back-up striker Alex Valera also testing positive for the virus; the side of Ricardo Gareca has caused the Selecao problems in recent times.

In the most recent game between the two sides was a friendly in Lima in September last year, which Peru won 1-0. An 85th-minute goal from Luis Abram gave Peru the win over Brazil on that day.

The Peruvians might not have the depth or firepower like some of the big guns in world football, but their grittiness has tested many.

And today, in the most-anticipated encounter against Brazil, Peru showed how tough they could be.

In the end, they lacked the quality to overcome the skill and charisma of Neymar.

Neymar – Voa Canarinho Voa

Zinedine Zidane once said, “Some people like his style, others don’t. I can understand that his opponents don’t like it when he fools about too much on the pitch, but the way he plays certainly brings a lot of spectacles. The fans love players like Neymar.”

Whereas, Diego Forlan once said “Neymar is one of the best strikers in the world, playing in football’s best club team. He scores goals, he makes assists, he gets past players, and he produces magic when he gets the ball. I could continue to compliment him because Neymar has lived up to the hype. Other Brazilians who’ve gone to Europe haven’t always settled so quickly. Neymar has. He’s going to get better and I suspect he’ll be the best in the world in a few years.”

The above quotes are enough to make one understand the quality of Neymar. In Santos, he was a kid, who loved to run all over the pitch and exhibit his antics with the ball at his feet. In the Confederations Cup, he caught the imagination of those Brazilians who were desperately searching for the heir of Romario, Bebeto, Ronaldo, Rivaldo, and Ronaldinho.

In Barcelona, it was supposed to be the story of another Romario and Ronaldo; but somehow the relationship became soar. The move to Paris Saint-Germain was not welcomed by the majority. But one crucial point each and everyone forgot – the boy from Brazil needed freedom to express and PSG gave him such.

After a couple of rough years, Neymar and PSG gelled well – the growth and maturity were evident and gradually the Brazilian became a player, who leads from the front and behind.

Since the last season, one could notice, Neymar has transformed into a Canarinho who loves to fly and become a treat for everyone – the joy of the people

Ney-trick

After taking on the creative mantle of his side against Bolivia in Sao Paulo, Neymar was back in familiar terrain against Peru and returned to the score-sheet with a hat-trick.

Yet again, it was his night.

He painted Lima yellow.

Peru made a dream start, opening the scoring in the sixth minute through Carrillo. A tame clearance from Marquinhos – who was substituted soon after with a suspected injury – fell to Carrillo to volley superbly into the corner.

Roberto Firmino should have equalized in the 13th minute, but he was denied by a fine save from Pedro Gallese after Richarlison’s header into his path.

Neymar was fouled and Brazil were awarded a penalty. He found the bottom corner with a penalty for his 62nd international goal – at that point of time, he was on level terms with Ronaldo O Fenomeno as the all-time goal-scorer for Brazil.

Neymar thought he had given Brazil the lead on the half-hour mark, only for his effort to be ruled out for a narrow offside decision against Richarlison.

Miguel Trauco forced Weverton into a good save with a strike from an angle early in the second half before Peru restored their lead in the 59th minute.

Tapia’s volley from 25 yards took a huge deflection off Rodrigo Caio, wrong-footing Weverton and finding the back of the net to make it 2-1.

5 minutes later, Neymar took a corner to the far post for Firmino, whose accurate header to the far post is met by the waiting Richarlison, who let the ball hit him before crossing the line.

Brazil were on equal terms and the tempo set up.

Neymar took the center stage.

In fact, he was the center of the action since the game commenced.

He dominated the middle and final third of the pitch – his quick footwork and pace outweigh the physicality of Peruvian defenders, who targeted to gun down Neymar and disturb the fluidity of Brazilian display.

But this Neymar is different – he cuts back from the flanks and immediately takes the center of the attack to push the game forward. He wants his teammates to score and his free-flowing nature to create space forces his teammates to come forward and block the players of the opposition to make the spaces bigger.

The game became intense and Peru decided to hang on for a draw, but their physicality let them down.

A Brazil counterattack, essayed by Everton Soares, who entered the penalty area and pushed for Everton Ribeiro – Abram came across and throws the star forward to the ground in desperation, giving the referee no option but award Brazil a penalty.

Neymar converted another penalty in the 83rd minute to give Brazil the lead.

Making matters worse for Peru, Zambrano was sent off for an elbow on Richarlison, with Carlos Caceda having also been shown a red card while on the bench minutes earlier.

Neymar wrapped up his hat-trick in additional time, tucking away a finish from close range after Everton hit the post.

Neymar overtook O Fenomeno and he celebrated with the famous finger-wagging celebration of R9. It was a fitting tribute on a night where Peru posed a serious threat.

The Ney-trick confirmed the superiority of Brazil in the World Cup Qualifiers.

“It’s about time for Neymar to take his place as the best in the world.”

Ronaldo O Fenomeno