Brazil coach Dunga thinks that Neymar has improved and matured since the team’s World Cup semifinal collapse against Germany last summer and says he’s living up to expectations. Neymar will be carrying Brazil’s hopes in this month’s Copa America in Chile, just as he did before a back injury put an end to his World Cup last year.
With 43 goals in 63 matches for Brazil, Neymar is the fifth highest goalscorer for his national team. Dunga believes that Neymar, who is now the captain for Brazil, can be a reference point for the rest of the team to model themselves after as they return to their first official competition since the World Cup.
“We expect Neymar to perform as well as he has been performing with the national team and with Barcelona,” Dunga said. “After we made him the captain, we expected him to behave a certain way and he did.”
In 2012 and 2013, SportsPro named him the most marketable athlete in the world. In December 2013 he was ranked by The Guardian as the sixth best player in the world.Dunga said Neymar is even better after spending another year at Barcelona, where he thrived alongside Messi and Luis Suarez.
Neymar ended the season with 39 goals in all competitions and 10 in the Champions League, making him joint highest scorer with Cristiano Ronaldo and teammate Lionel Messi in the latter competition.The forward line of Neymar, Messi and Luis Suárez ended with 122 goals, the highest for a season by a Spanish team.
“His performance has improved,” Dunga said. “He has matured and has become more capable of overcoming challenges. He has met our expectations. I hope he continues to be seen as our reference.”
Because of the Champions League, Neymar only reported to Brazil’s national team on Monday, about a week after the rest of the squad. He missed the team’s warmup against Mexico on Sunday, and played only the second half in the warm up against Honduras on Wednesday.
Neymar was selected for the first time in the Brazil senior team in 2010 by new head coach Mano Menezes for a friendly match against the United States to be played in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
Brazil has won four of the last six Copa Americas. Its last title was in 2007 in Venezuela, when Dunga was also the coach. Mali, Senegal, United States and Serbia all made their way into the last-eight stage on Wednesday, and Uzbekistan became the fifth qualifiers on Thursday before the more traditional powers asserted themselves.