Neymar can learn from Suarez, says Richard Buxton
What he needs to do is look at how Barca teammate Suarez has turned his fortunes around
(Douglas Costa 1, Renato Agusto 26)
(Edinson Cavani 31, Luis Suarez 48)
Brazil require a leader of men but Neymar, for some time now regarded as the player to lead them back to the top of football, appears to be shunning the responsibility.
At a time when the Barcelona forward has the world at this feet, he is far happier to indulge in backyard tomfoolery.
His time is now but the 24-year-old continues to plead that it is not quite yet.
He appears content with remaining a wonder kid trapped in a man's body.
In a thrilling 2-2 draw with Uruguay yesterday morning (Singapore time), that pattern continued as the two giants failed to force a win in their South American World Cup qualifier.
Refining the attributes capable of placing him alongside Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho in a recent illustrious dual pantheon for both club and country seems like a formality after his form for Barcelona this season, but even with the Selecao's captaincy now firmly in his grasp, Neymar's attitude continues to trump that ongoing search of excellence.
Providing an assist for Renato Agusto with a long-range pass, complemented by a handful of at goal during this World Cup encounter was clear evidence of his ability, but his flashes of insolence and frustration continue to get the better of him.
That Luis Suarez was forced to restrain him after his team-mate at the Nou Camp became caught up in confrontation, with officials and Uruguay players alike, was indicative of just how much growing up Neymar still has to do between now and summer of 2018.
His impending suspension, following another needless booking, will doubtless be welcomed by Barcelona manager Luis Enrique ahead of the El Clasico next weekend but threatens to be as a potential blow for his country's midweek encounter with Paraguay.
This was the player whose fortunes dictated the rise and fall of Brazil's run to the 2014 World Cup semi-final in their homeland - he should now be making the side his own; taking it firmly by the scruff of the neck in a bid to reach Russia in 2018.
Neymar could do far worse than take a leaf out of Suarez's book.
The former Liverpool striker was a casualty of the 2014 World Cup, albeit for different reasons, and his long-awaited competitive return for Uruguay, poetically back in Brazil, served as a lesson in the merits behind curbing one's immature streak.
Since he last wore La Celeste's shirt, the 29-year-old has transformed himself from a footballing pariah into one of the game's most celebrated attackers.
All has not been forgotten, nor forgiven, since he sunk his teeth into Italian Giorgio Chiellini's arm two years ago, but his decisive second-half equaliser suggests that those 640 days in the international wilderness have been put to productive use.
Suarez still governs by one clinical action but it is the sublime rather than the stupid which has returned to the fore.
He still terrorises defenders, although it is with trickery instead of baring of teeth, as he did in that infamous encounter against Italy.
His road to redemption has been one laden with trophies and an enhanced reputation at Barcelona.
From having nothing to lose to gaining everything, it has been a tale of personal triumph.
Neymar never did have the mean streak or the temper, but he definitely can learn from Suarez about leadership and living up to expectations.
Wednesday (March 30):
- Colombia v Ecuador
- Uruguay v Peru
- Venezuela v Chile
- Argentina v Bolivia
- Paraguay v Brazil
Stars and Stripes stare into the abyss
(Morales 7, Ruiz 15)
UNITED STATES 0
Guatemala dealt a lacklustre United States a devastating 2-0 defeat in a 2018 World Cup qualifier in Guatemala City (yesterday morning, Singapore time).
With goals in the first 15 minutes from Rafael Morales and Carlos Ruiz and an outstanding performance from goalkeeper Paulo Motta, Guatemala earned their first World Cup qualifying victory over the US and leapfrogged over Juergen Klinsmann's men into second place in Group C in the fourth round of qualifying in North and Central America (Concacaf).
Klinsmann had been bullish heading into the match - the first of two in five days against Guatemala - saying he was hoping for maximum points so the United States could secure their spot in the final "Hexagonal" phase of qualifying before turning their attention to the Copa America Centenario.
Instead, the Americans will be in damage control mode when they host Guatemala in Columbus, Ohio, on Tuesday.
Guatemala got off to a dream start when Morales rose for a corner and nodded the ball off the back of Mix Diskerud and past US goalkeeper Tim Howard in the seventh minute.
Ruiz made it 2-0 in the 15th minute when a long goal-kick from Motta rolled untouched past the US defence, for Ruiz to race onto it and beat Howard.
"For us it's obviously disappointing," said Klinsmann, who praised the play of Guatemala but said the United States made "too many mistakes".
"On the international level you cannot make the mistakes that led into the two goals, you simply cannot allow that," he added, noting that the near post was left unguarded on the corner that produced Morales' goal.
After struggling throughout the first half to create clear chances, the visitors looked more dangerous early in the second.
Motta, however, made half a dozen solid saves to keep the US at bay, including stopping an 81st-minute attempt by substitute Jozy Altidore.
"We said at halftime let's turn this thing around," Klinsmann said. "There were enough chances to win the game, but we didn't put it in."
The victory gave Guatemala six points from three matches, one behind Group C leaders Trinidad and Tobago, who battled back from a 1-0 halftime deficit for a 3-2 victory at lowly St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Levi Garcia's two goals for Trinidad included the game-winner in the 82nd minute.
The United States' four points left them in third, ahead only of St. Vincent and the Grenadines with zero points.
The top two teams advance to the final six-nation round of qualifying. - AFP.
- El Salvador 2 Honduras 2
- Canada 0 Mexico 3
- Haiti 0 Panama 0
- Jamaica 1 Costa Rica 1
- St. Vincent and Grenadines 2 Trinidad and Tobago 3