Your boy Tinsley told you all to seize this weekend at all costs. I didn’t get to smang a bad model chick as seen in that post. I did kill 3 birds with one stone by attending my first pro, international friendly and Clasico in one. MetLife Stadium played host to Argentina and Brazil’s face off Saturday. And with this match came a sea of rabid fans, including plenty of beautiful women, and clear skies with a touch of humidity: a day made for football.
Any thought of you being in the swamp quickly dissipated once inside. Spanish and Portuguese chatter lined the vicinity from the top row to the parking lot. The 80,000+ fans on hand made the stadium’s floor shake with each breakthrough on the field. Practically everyone from Ironbound, Jackson Heights and throughout Latin America stood in attendance and the energy throughout 90 minutes plus was unlike anything I witnessed from a live sporting event.
By this point you should tell the game lived up to the hype. Possession football by Brazil turned into counter attack mayhem from both sides by the second half. And, like Gotty said over a year ago, the game moves much faster in person and easily beats watching it on the tube. Yet the bigger picture highlighted the game’s two biggest stars in Lio Messi and Neymar.
It’s tough to get excited about Neymar stateside when all you have is a controversial cosign from Pele and YouTube clips to gauge his talents. I’m all about seeing and believing so I’ll give credit where it’s due. Neymar’s vision, creativity and nose for the ball really impressed me. He went out of his way to disrupt Argentina’s midfield early and enabled Brazil to dominate possession. His assist to Romulo off a free kick got Brazil on the board first and could’ve spelled the beginning of the end for Argentina. After all, what good is it to have an all-world player when you can’t get the ball?
All it took was one goal via Higuan’s through ball to get Messi going. Then Brazil’s control over the game slowly deteriorated. They fought as best they could with ensuing strikes from Oscar and Hulk all while holding on to a short-lived one goal lead. Impact sub Sergio Aguero connected with Fedrico Fernandez on a corner knotting the game up at 3 all. However Messi’s hat trick was too cold to fold: capped by a game-defining run and spectacular finish.
Watching “The Messi Show” unfold live did more than reiterate Lio’s title as the world’s best player. It exhibited how Neymar and Messi, not that far from one another in creating and ball control, stood worlds apart on concentration and finishing. Neymar’s crafty dribbling and pace put him in position for plenty of chances. Then he either got too slick, went way wide on his shots or ran out of gas.* Messi always had the “look” about him even in a game for bragging rights. If he didn’t score he was dangerously close and knew he had to put his team on his back to take down a more physical, athletic Brazilian side. The difference is as clear as day but yields a huge distinction in where they stand in relation to one another.
Neymar’s reality as one of the world’s best barely into their 20’s invites a gang of expectations. He’s pretty much “there” in many respects but still has considerable maturing to do. He lacks the killer instinct and poise often assumed from a top class prospect but there’s nothing about his game time can’t fix. However, with big clubs like Barcelona and Real Madrid eying him for next season, you have to wonder if he’ll embrace the challenge that comes with playing overseas or miss being a big fish in a small pond.
*To be fair, he drew contact in the box twice on runs but the refs didn’t have any of it.