All eyes on Barcelona's Neymar at Confederations Cup

AP, Tuesday 11 Jun 2013

The Confederations Cup will be Neymar's first tournament after joining the Catalan club a few weeks ago

Brazilian soccer player Neymar poses for the media in front of Barcelona's offices, close to Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona June 3, 2013 (Photo: Reuters)

As the player carrying Brazil's hopes for a World Cup title at home, Neymar is expected to attract most of the attention at the Confederations Cup.

And after his high-profile transfer to Barcelona, the scrutiny is only likely to increase.

The 21-year-old striker got the sporting world's attention when he picked Barcelona over Real Madrid a few weeks ago, and the Confederations Cup will be his first tournament as the latest attraction of the Catalan club.

He will join Lionel Messi and his new teammates after the World Cup warm-up tournament, but first will try to prove that he can also play up to his potential with the national team.

''It's a dream come true to play with players like Messi, Xavi (Hernandez), (Andres) Iniesta, Adriano, Daniel Alves,'' Neymar said. ''I'm anxious for that day to arrive, but right now I need to focus on the Confederations Cup. I want to win this title for Brazil.''

Despite all the hype surrounding Neymar's transfer, he hasn't been receiving a lot of praise locally in recent times, especially because of his disappointing performances with Brazil.

He was loudly jeered by home fans after playing poorly in a 2-2 draw in a friendly with Chile.

''Nobody likes to be booed, but I don't really care,'' Neymar said. ''I know what I can do.''

His prowess frequently has been on display with Santos, the club he thrived with since he started playing professionally in 2009. But with Brazil he has experienced more disappointment than success.

The Confederations Cup will be the third significant competition for Neymar with the national team, and so far he has failed to provide the spark everyone expected from him.

Neymar helped Brazil's under-20 squad win the South American championship in 2011, but his first test with the senior team was the 2011 Copa America, when Brazil was eliminated by Paraguay in the quarterfinals.

The second was in the 2012 London Olympics, when he was the star of the Brazilian squad that was favored to win its first Olympic gold medal in soccer. But Neymar struggled in the final and Brazil was left with the silver after a loss to Mexico.

''It's a dream to be playing for Brazil, and I know it's a big responsibility,'' Neymar said.

In addition to Neymar, Brazil will have a few other youngsters trying to give the nation its third straight Confederations Cup title, and fourth overall. Among them are Chelsea midfielder Oscar and Paris Saint-Germain forward Lucas. Neymar's new Barcelona teammates Daniel Alves and Adriano also will be on the team.

''If we are united, we will have a good chance of winning this title,'' Neymar said. ''We know that the players are good. We are still one of the dominant powers in international football.''

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