Unexpected heroes

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The Confederations Cup was supposed to be a coming-of-age party for Neymar. The spiky-haired forward did step up to the plate with four delightful goals including a thunderous drive in the final. Neymar’s graduation from boy to man is complete now. No doubt the brand new Barcelona signing is on the right track.

A permanent place in Brazilian hearts will be guaranteed if Neymar reprises his Confederations role at the World Cup next year.
The success of Neymar was on the cards but one of his teammates became an unexpected hero of Brazil’s triumph. Fred, one of the oldies in the squad at 29, doesn’t have the credentials to bewitch the football world à la Lionel Messi. But he has a big heart. Fred’s style is workmanlike and he isn’t a deadly dribbler who can wow fans with a feint here and a shimmy there. The forward can be furthest to the idea of an imaginative Brazilian. He is, however, effective. Fred is integral to his coach Luiz Felipe Scolari’s World Cup plans. A renowned team builder, Big Phil knows the importance of a player like Fred to the Selecao. Gilberto Silva was a key player for Brazil when they won the World Cup in 2002 and it was Scolari’s unflinching faith in the defensive midfielder that allowed him to flourish at the altar of international football. Flamboyant players grab the headlines all the time but every successful team needs soldiers to do the thankless job. Defenders can figure out ways to stop creative players like Neymar. At the same time, however, they may never be able to solve the puzzle of Fred who is full of hunger and doggedness.
Fred has demonstrated his ability to lead the Brazilian line by scoring five goals in the Confederations Cup. The Fluminense forward held the ball admirably to allow his more inventive teammates join the attack besides finding the target himself at crucial junctures. Football is all about scoring goals and the end matters more than the means. Fred wasn’t merely a nuisance to rival defenders in the preparatory event for next year’s World Cup; he was a match winner on his own in the final. His brace consigned Spain to a 3-0 defeat. His opening goal was a master class in perseverance and quick thinking. He managed to hook the ball past Iker Casillas with incredible power despite lying on the ground. The effort, coming as it did in the second minute of the game to deflate Spain, showed Fred belonged to Brazil.

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