Neymar Surpasses Pelé: Becomes Brazil’s All-Time Top Scorer
In a game that marked not only the breaking of a record but also the debut of coach Fernando Diniz, Brazil defeated Bolivia 5-1 in Belém during the first round of the South American qualifiers. Neymar, Brazil’s star forward, achieved a historic milestone, surpassing none other than the greatest footballer of all time, Pelé.
Image: Fernando Torres/AGIF
Neymar: Brazil’s All-Time Leading Scorer
The record in question, becoming the all-time leading scorer for the greatest national team in the world, was just a matter of time for Neymar. Since his debut for the Brazilian national team in 2010, following the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the young prodigy made an immediate impact, scoring his first goal with a header against the United States in a friendly match.
For the Brazilian people, it was a moment of unparalleled hope. Despite the feeling that the team could have gone further in the 2010 World Cup, Neymar emerged as the star of a new generation. This was partly because many of the players from the 2010 squad were already at an advanced age, and several of them retired from international football shortly after the tournament.
Image: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
From that game against the United States until the match against Bolivia on September 8, 2023, Neymar has represented Brazil in 125 matches. He has scored 79 goals and provided 56 assists, totaling 135 goal involvements, which equates to an average of over one goal involvement per match. An incredible feat!
As the years passed, Neymar unquestionably became the standout player for the Brazilian national team. However, he was never a unanimous figure among Brazilian fans. Despite his undeniable talent, Neymar faced high expectations, particularly in relation to winning the FIFA World Cup. His journey included three World Cup appearances, with Brazil being eliminated in the quarter-finals twice and in the semi-finals once (most notably the infamous 7-1 loss).
Neymar did not play in that fateful 7-1 match due to a serious back injury sustained in a previous game, but for some critical fans, this did not fully absolve him from the collective disappointment of Brazil’s performance.
So, why hasn’t Neymar been a unanimous figure among Brazilian fans, unlike legendary players like Zico, Falcão, Sócrates, and others who also never won a World Cup? The issue seems to be one of immense expectation. Being recognized as one of the greatest players in Brazil’s history brings with it great expectations. Fans anticipate a level of commitment and performance that Neymar, at times, seemed to fall short of.
Regardless of whether Brazil wins the World Cup in the future, Neymar’s achievement at the Mangueirão Stadium in Belém secures his place in the history of the Brazilian national team. He is now the all-time leading scorer, surpassing the legendary Pelé.
Pelé retired from professional football in 1974, and since then, countless exceptional players have represented Brazil. Yet, it wasn’t until 2023 that Neymar broke Pelé’s record of 77 goals. This record’s enduring significance is a testament to its historic weight, which deserves to be celebrated.
Fernando Diniz’s Debut
It appeared that the Bolivian national team was ill-prepared for the style of play implemented by Fernando Diniz in his debut as Brazil’s head coach.
As expected, given the limited time he had to work with the squad, Diniz aimed to boost the players’ confidence and emphasize intuitive play.
When a team featuring players of exceptionally high caliber faces one that is technically inferior and maintains significant gaps between its lines, the disparity between the two teams becomes evident on the field.
Bolivia defended with wide gaps, which played right into Brazil’s hands. The Brazilian players exuded confidence, with quick passes, overlapping runs, and dribbles, resulting in an early penalty.
Neymar stepped up to take the penalty, and the expectation was that he would break the record. It’s challenging to recall the last time Neymar missed a penalty. However, Bolivian goalkeeper Viscarra was the star of the first half, displaying nerves of steel to make a crucial save.
Viscarra made another remarkable save, denying a spectacular header from Richarlison.
Despite Viscarra’s efforts, which deserve honorable mention, Brazil’s wingers, Rodrygo and Raphinha, were in top form. Raphinha opened the scoring in the 24th minute.
Image: Beatriz Reis
The halftime score was surprisingly modest given Brazil’s dominant performance, but it was expected to become more lopsided if the same pace was maintained.
That expectation was realized as Brazil added more goals in the second half. Raphinha scored his second goal, capitalizing on a defense-deflected shot.
Rodrygo netted his second goal, assisted brilliantly by Bruno Guimarães.
The moment of history arrived in the 71st minute when Neymar converted a penalty, making him Brazil’s all-time leading scorer. The penalty was awarded after Rodrygo was fouled in the box.
In the celebration that followed, Neymar punched the air, reminiscent of the celebration style of the King himself, Pelé.
Neymar had time for one more goal, his second of the match and Brazil’s fifth, deep into injury time.
Bolivia managed to score a consolation goal, a stunning long-range strike by Ábrego. The Bolivian player capitalized on a rapid counter-attack, unleashing a powerful shot into the top corner past Ederson.
With the game concluded, the Brazilian fans are left with heightened expectations. Will Fernando Diniz remain in charge, or will Carlo Ancelotti eventually take over? Can Neymar reach his peak physical condition and lead Brazil to the coveted hexa? The next test is already upon us. On Tuesday, Brazil faces a tougher opponent away from home, Peru, in Lima.
We will soon witness the unfolding of this new era for the Brazilian national team.
Written by Vitor F L Miller.