Copa America 2015: Neymar Looks to Shed Robin Label From Lionel Messi at Soccer Tournament
The biggest soccer tournament in South America is almost here.
The 2015 Copa America begins Thursday, June 11 with Chile and Ecuador facing off in Santiago, Chile. So many great players will be competing such as Lionel Messi, James Rodriguez, Claudio Bravo, and of course, Neymar.
Neymar is regarded as the best player in the world today under the age of 25. The Brazilian superstar experienced one of the most successful runs in a single season with Barcelona this year. He helped guide Barcelona to a La Liga championship in the Spanish Premier League, he then won the Copa del Rey over Athletic Bilbao, and of course, most recently beat Juventus in the Champions League final. With those three key victories, Neymar has brought a treble to Barcelona.
But, he is overshadowed by arguably the best player in the world today, Lionel Messi.
And who could blame people for that? Messi is on top of the world right now having broken nearly every Spanish League record know to mankind. Messi is without a doubt the best passer in the world today, and he attracts constant double teams from opposing defensive units. Messi led Barcelona this La Liga season with 43 goals and a league-leading 18 assists. Neymar had 22 goals and seven assists this La Liga season.
That's not to take anything away from Neymar, but the reality is no one can be "Batman" when playing on the same team as Messi. Neymar has been an incredibly fantastic addition from the Santos, but Barcelona will be Messi's team for quite some time.
But, Neymar has a chance to distance Messi at the international level. Both Messi and Neymar scored four goals during the 2014 FIFA World Cup for their respective countries. Neymar played fantastic but a back injury sidelined him while Messi led Argentina to the finals. Both Messi and Neymar will be competing at the 2015 Copa America, but in separate groups. Messi and Argentina will be playing in Group B with Uruguay, Paraguay and Jamaica. Neymar leads Brazil in Group C against Colombia, Peru and Venezuela.
As all-time great as Messi is, he has never won the Copa America before. He did however make it to the finals in 2007, but lost to a Robinho-led Brazil squad, 3-0. Pele, regarded as the greatest soccer player ever, also never won a Copa America championship. Brazil's Copa America drought extended from 1949 all the way to 1989, when they were the host nation both times.
He's only 23 years old, but Neymar has been named team captain (controversially) over Thiago Silva. Neymar has been criticized for flopping a bit too often, and for his eccentric celebrations. That's far from his biggest issue heading into South America's biggest soccer tournament. Neymar has a great chance to shed the "Robin" label for his country this summer.
The question is, Will he answer it like Mark Messier or like Scottie Pippen? Messier of course won two Stanley Cups without Wayne Gretzky by his side. As for Pippen, not so much.
Scoring goals and winning games for your club is great, but nothing can equal the greatness of scoring and winning for your country. Messi and Argentina enter this Copa America as one of the favorites, but we shouldn't count out Brazil, even if goalkeeper Diego Alvez isn't playing. We may just see these two countries cross paths in the knockout stage.
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