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Will Neymar lift the World Cup?

Have you seen Argentina win the World Cup? If your answer is ‘yes’, that means you are already long-sighted or about to become a victim of long-sightedness. Are you wondering why am I so certain about this? It’s simple math brother, simple math.

Before explaining the math, let’s look for the answer of a question. At what age do humans start forming memories – four years? five years? Surely this has been researched. But I don’t feel like searching about it right now and most probably, it’s not even necessary. One can easily guess the answer. There maybe a couple of exceptions, but the answer would be around 4-5 years old.

Brazil’s forward Neymar greets children during a training session at the Al Arabi SC Stadium in Doha on 20 November, 2022
Brazil’s forward Neymar greets children during a training session at the Al Arabi SC Stadium in Doha on 20 November, 2022AFP

 

If that indeed is the case, it means that if you have memories of Argentina’s World Cup win, you are certain to be 40. And Sumon Chattopadhyay, long before he became Kabir Sumon, told us with his song that after reaching 40, long-sightedness is sure to follow (Chollishe chalshe).

Argentina won its second World Cup 36 years ago, in 1986. Which means none of the adolescents or youths in the world have seen Argentina celebrate with the World Cup trophy. Those who have seen Diego Maradona celebrate with the World Cup trophy ‘live’ as it happened, are at least middle-aged.

Argentina’s captain Diego Maradona brandishes the World Cup trophy
Argentina’s captain Diego Maradona brandishes the World Cup trophyAFP
Maybe not to that extent, but Brazil is also not that far. Brazil won the fifth of its five World Cups so far in 2002. 20 years have passed since then. If you can recall the memory of Cafu holding the World Cup trophy, you are also at least 24-25 years old. It’s mindboggling to think that the entire world’s youth have not seen either of the two most popular teams in the world win the World Cup.

Brazil first won the World Cup 28 years after the inaugural edition. After that, the most successful team in World Cup history have only once had to wait longer for a World Cup trophy. After Pele’s Brazil team added a new dimension in football and won the World Cup in 1970, they had to wait for 24 years for their next success.

Brazilian forward Pele, their hero in the 1970 World Cup
Brazilian forward Pele, their hero in the 1970 World CupAFP
There has been so much talk over the years about this extended wait. A big reason behind so much discussion was because Brazil had a team that was capable of winning the World Cup, they played like a team that should win the World Cup, but repeatedly tasted failure.

Brazil’s failure in the 1982 World Cup is the stuff of legends, which has had a long-lasting effect on football itself. Because of that monumental failure, Brazil’s failures in the next two World Cups don’t get talked about as much. But Brazil returning empty-handed from the 1986 and 1990 World Cups were also big upsets.

Brazil’s remarkable consistency right before the 24-year-long drought was also a big reason why this failure was so surprising. Brazil had won three out of the four World Cups held between 1958 and 1970. After the 24-year-long drought ended, another golden spell began. Brazil played in the finals of the next two World Cups and added one star to their jersey. But the team that played the final in three consecutive editions from 1994 to 2002, have failed to even once make it to the final of the following four World Cups. The failure to qualify to the final also followed a pattern. Each time, Brazil got knocked out by a European team.

European teams have also repeatedly shattered Argentina’s dreams. However, rather than talking about an entire continent, specifically only one team needs to be talked about in this regard.

The team that made Diego Maradona cry on the field after losing the 1990 World Cup final has turned making Argentina cry in World Cups almost into a habit. I assume you already know the name of that country or team.

There is always so much talk about the animosity between Brazil and Argentina. But actually, Germany should be the most hated team for Argentina fans. And shouldn’t it be the same for the Brazil fans! Do you want to know the reason? Really! Have you forgotten about the 2014 World Cup semifinal!

Germany’s forward Thomas Mueller (C) celebrates after scoring the first of seven goals against Brazil in the 2014 World Cup semifinal
Germany’s forward Thomas Mueller (C) celebrates after scoring the first of seven goals against Brazil in the 2014 World Cup semifinalAFP
At last, another team’s name has come up other than Brazil and Argentina. I don’t see the need to explain why I used up so much space only talking about Brazil and Argentina in a write-up on the World Cup. Supporters of other teams might feel a bit miffed. But even they know it very well that in Bangladesh, football World Cup means Brazil and Argentina.

Both teams are not only on a mission to end their trophy drought but are also carrying another big responsibility, defending the honour of their continent. However, rather than ‘defending’, it would be more appropriate to call it restoring the honour.

The evenly-matched contest between Europe and Latin America from the start of the World Cup, is being dominated by the European countries for some time now. The previous four World Cup trophies have gone to Europe. One of those wins includes the first instance of a European country winning a World Cup held in Latin America. Germany’s name is also associated with this record.

Not just Brazil and Argentina, Germany, as expected, is also a big contender for the World Cup. So are the defending champions France, even after losing the likes of Karim Benzema, Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante.

However, keeping what has happened in the previous few World Cups in mind, the French should fall on their knees and pray to go past the first round as the trend of defending champions getting eliminated from the first round started in 2002, with France being the first victims.

When the discussion moves away from teams and shifts to players, the first name that inevitably comes up is Lionel Messi. This will be the Argentine magician’s last World Cup. It will also be the final World Cup of his fierce rival Cristiano Ronaldo.

Both of them have won the Ballon d’Or in loads and all possible team trophies. The only thing missing in both of theirs trophy cabinet is a FIFA World Cup. Will the 2022 Qatar World Cup be the World Cup where one of them ends their wait?

Brazil’s forward Neymar prays during a training session
Brazil’s forward Neymar prays during a training sessionAFP
Another name has been uttered alongside them in the past few years. Rumour is, that this could also be his last World Cup. Age-wise, there is no reason why Neymar can’t play another World Cup. His 31st birthday is still 2.5 months away. Then, why is everyone saying this will be his last World Cup? It’s because, apparently, Neymar himself has said this to his inner circle.

This is sure to be Messi’s final World Cup, also Ronaldo’s; if Neymar too joins that list then it would become a three-way fight to end their last World Cup with a flourish.

Individually, Neymar has remained the third out of the three so far. But for some reason, I feel that in this World Cup it will be Neymar who will achieve the ultimate glory. I can give football logic, but I always listen more to my heart when predicting about the World Cup. So, what is my heart telling me?

It’s saying, this will be Neymar’s World Cup. This will be Brazil’s World Cup.

*This report appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Ashfaq-Ul-Alam Niloy

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