The genius of Neymar

Neymar wasn't the best player on the field. Argentina Angel Di Maria had a goal and two assists.

The 28-year-old Brazilian didn't get on the scoresheet -- though he did hit the post twice in the first half.

But he was the inspiration in Paris St. Germain's surprisingly easy 3-0 win over RB Leipizg in the UEFA Champions League semifinals.

Throughout the first half, Leipzig chased Neymar in vain. And it was a touch of genius from the Brazilian that set up Di Maria's goal just before halftime.

The play began when Leipzig's Hungarian keeper, Peter Gulacsi, turned the ball over deep in his team's half, but it was Neymar's outrageous touch to jump and flick a pass straight to the open Di Maria for an easy goal that broke the game open at 2-0.

Neymar scored in PSG's first game back since March for the lone goal in the 1-0 win over St. Etienne in the French Cup final on July 24. He hasn't scored since then, not in the French League Cup final against Lyon, which PSG won on penalty kicks after a scoreless game, and not in the semifinals against Atalanta, though he was excellent in the comeback win.

“What can I say to Neymar to help him score a goal when I scored maybe two in my career,” joked PSG's German coach, Thomas Tuchel. “He scores in training, but he is playing exceptionally well, he is so, so strong. He has a winning mentality, a hunger to win and to show he is capable of being the best player in the world. If he scores in the final, then I'll be happy.”

The only question is whether Neymar will play in Sunday's final against Bayern Munich or Lyon after he broke UEFA's COVID-19 protocols for swapping jerseys with RB Leipzig defender Marcel Halstenberg after the game in Lisbon.

Social media accounts lit up with suggestions that Neymar faced a suspension or lengthy quarantine for the gesture, but UEFA's 31-page return to play rules, simply say about shirt-swapping that "players are recommended to refrain from swapping their shirts."

19 comments about "The genius of Neymar".
  1. David Ruder, August 19, 2020 at 8:02 a.m.

    To see Neymar and Angel DiMaria perform  is worth double the ticket price alone. The  overwhelmed Leipzig keeper Gulacci dint get much help from his defense since they were practicing social distancing in the penalty box. 

  2. Bob Ashpole replied, August 19, 2020 at 9:38 a.m.


  3. frank schoon, August 19, 2020 at 10:11 a.m.

    "Neymar wasn't the best player on the field"???...He was the BEST!! hands down. No, he didn't score, big deal. He drew so many opponents to him leaving more space for his teammates to operate in. His feints and moves, able to dribble with BOTH legs, shaking off opponents in close  quarters. He is the best when it comes to playing is small spaces. PSG without Neymar is not worth watching....

    Leipzig doesn't have a clue how to build up an attack from the back, the mistakes and bad passes made are no different than what you see by U15 game.  How often did you see the goalie pass the ball to a first line defender with his back facing downfield while the back line is placed under pressure. 

    In the 6th minute, note how the Leipzig players in the backfield ,the centerbacks, are positioned square about 9meters to either side of the goalie, in the penalty box, near the endline. Now check out where the backs are positioned, right next to the sideline. Next, we have 3 PSG players right on the edge of the penalty box ready to pounce on either the goalie or the 2 centerbacks. Behind those 3 PSG players are 2 Leipzig players, midfielders. If you look at the total picture every Leipzig player ,the backline and 3midfielders were covered, 6v6, with the goalie as the only open player.

    Realize there is plenty of space between the 3 PSG players to pass a ball between them to those 2 Leipzig midfielders who have some space to operate in. Ofcourse that means the 3rd Leipzig midfielder near the midfield line would have to move up and take his PSG opponent with him to create more space for one of the Leipzig midfielders positioned behind the 3PSG attackers to get the ball from the goalie.    NEXT POST...

  4. frank schoon, August 19, 2020 at 10:45 a.m.

    The goalie's first pass is square to his centerback who is about 5 big steps away from him. Like what is THAT suppose to accomplish!!!  In other words, a pass to a player, a centerback, who are the least technical and least creative, as is shown by the pass he proceeds to give a useless square type of pass to the leftback. In other words two square passes in a row, which does not beat or bypass any opponent, thereby you haven't solved the problem, you only  shift the problem sideways allowing the same opponents to shift as well and stay facing the ball.

    The Golden Rule in building up is that the pass in the backfield should beat an opponent, meaning you won't see the same opponent facing you and you have one or more less opponent to deal with....GOLDEN RULE IS THAT THE FIRST PASS OUT OF THE BACKFIELD SHOULD NEVER BE SQUARE BUT FURTHER UPFIELD, skipping the first station, which as a result created faster tempo game ,offensively for all the midfielder has to do with his back facing downfield is to one-touch the ball to the 3rd man on the move facing downfield. That is how INITIATE a build up . NEVER pass to a back when you build up an attack from the back. You only pass to a back if he can go on offense but never on a build up...

    PSG played it smart by giving the backs enough space to receive the ball and of course the centerback took the bait and passed to the leftback who couldn't go anywhere....THAT IS WHY YOU DON'T PASS TO A BACK WHEN BUILDING UP.... The back passes back to the goalies right foot, in other words ,to the foot nearest to the PSG opponent, instead of the goalies left foot so at least he could shield the ball. At Ajax ,that is drilled into you from youth on, "never pass to the near foot but far foot"....

    I'm so surprised a licensed pro-coach doesn't understand how to teach his players how to build up an attack from the back. I see these mistakebuild up mistakes all the time, whether it be in the MLS or in CL or top leagues....This is one of the reasons soccer has gone down in quality of play over the years for these are simple ABC's of soccer that is taught 60years ago. 

  5. Santiago 1314 replied, August 19, 2020 at 12:12 p.m.

    Yes Frank... Still Amazes Me, This OVER EMPHASIS of Playing "Out of The Back". Especially Dangerous with this "New Formation" Of Centerbacks "Square" in the Penalty Area.... If these 2 Players and the GK had SKILL they would be in the Midfield or Forward.!!!!.... Playing forward, out of a 75x18 Grid With 5v3 is Not too Difficult, When you have Ty Keough and Cubillas in your 5(As I did for my "B" Field Exam) ... Part of the Problem is there is Nowhere to "Go Back" to Relieve Pressure... PSG set nice Traps with 3 Front Players and "Sweeping" Midfielders behind... 

  6. Bob Ashpole replied, August 20, 2020 at 12:58 a.m.

    Some licensed youth coaches are actually designing drills for CBs to practice making square passes to each other inside the penalty!

    Someone asked for a critique of his progression of exercises for building out of the back. I told him what I thought (there was no winger available in the middle third until the 5th exercise), and he got huffy defending the USSF conventional wisdom at the time. I hate pattern passing drills. This guy likely taught hundreds of kids how not to play.

    At least in the bad old days when the coach had us do weave drills, we were running up field. Sigh.

  7. frank schoon replied, August 20, 2020 at 7:59 a.m.

    Bob, This is my point about the criticism I have about the National Coaching School that teaches coaches....They don't have good instructors teaching the coaches, they have professors that have difficulty taking on a lamppost 1v1. Like Ernst Happel ,known by many as one of 'THE' greatest coaches ever, once stated describing the coaching instructors at the National Coaching School, ' if you were a good coach, you wouldn't be there teaching as an instructor in the first place"

    This licensed goofball you mentioned teaching the CB passing drills should have had his license taken away and make him give coaching course to the Disney characters at Disney World. The last people involved in the build up are the CB's not the first.  The backline should not be involved in the build up for , one , they have no back support in case something goes wrong and two, they are the worst technically in handling the ball. 

    In the build up it is a must to create as many players behind the ball as possible thereby reducing any counters. That means ,in effect, create as many lines or what we call in dutch "linies" as possible. And you can't do that when the backline has the ball. This is why the first pass has to be vertical, forwards in starting the build up.

  8. frank schoon, August 19, 2020 at 12:35 p.m.

    Santiago,  You know what amazes me more is this current crap being taught to all teams and coaches at all levels.  Who in his right mind decided it to teach it to coaches to position their centerbacks all the way back in the penalty with the goalie and use them for the build up.  If you move the centerback forwards outside penalty are it would only make it more difficult for the opponent to cover the back field but standing almost next to the goalie doesn't do anything....

    I can't wait when we go back to using a sweeper type of player who has great ball skills and passing capabilities and who can move up to midfield to create numerical superiority. Square positioned centerbacks is a joke of which neither have technical capabilities but are just stiffs. You don't place or positioned  anywhere on the field  two players square to defend an opponent for a split would be it , so why would you do that in front of your own goal as two centerbacks. 

    The problem is that so many players in the backfield including the goalie lack the confidence to make a pass that bypasses the nearest station upfield...

  9. Ben Myers, August 19, 2020 at 3:13 p.m.

    With DeMaria, Messi, Agüero and Dybala, why is it that the Argentine national team did not overwhelm opponents with goals in the last World Cup.  Answer?   Too much emphasis on Messi?  

  10. frank schoon replied, August 19, 2020 at 3:32 p.m.

    Ben, DiMaria with Manchester United was a total flop. Having too many of the same types does not work...

  11. Bob Ashpole replied, August 20, 2020 at 1 a.m.

    My understanding is there were too many egos for the coach to juggle. Everyone wanted to play the piano at the same time.

  12. frank schoon replied, August 20, 2020 at 8:15 a.m.

    Bob, sure there are many egos but it stops when it reaches Messi for they all know Messi is the best. It is a hierarchy and all players understand that. Neymar and Suarez understood that at Barcelona , they ceded their ego to Messi for he was the best. If all 3 considered themselves just as good or better than the other than Barcelona would a big mess up front.  11 Peles don't make a good team for many would be underemployed or overemployed.
    Ben questioned why Argentina has problems when you consider all the goal scorers they have. That's the problem, you can't too many of the same doesn't work. At Ajax when Cruyff played there were certain for example, Gerrit Muhren, the left halfback who was known as the have the best skills was allowed to only use 40% of his ability in order for Cruyff to function !00%.
    Gerrit Muhren's role was to never lose the ball. The center half Arie Haan, was told that he was not allowed to dribble the ball and go on forays, instead he was limited shooting, and heading and passing off the ball in order for Cruyff to operate 100%. If Haan would go on his own on dribbling forays it would denude's Cruyff's ability and thereby his threats..Ajax was well planned out. 

    Why do you think Messi does so well at Barcelona and stinks with Argentina because at Barcelona, the dutch thinking and philosophy of playing of how to make players most efficient was followed by Guardiola in his coaching.

  13. R2 Dad, August 20, 2020 at 12:37 a.m.

    The scoreline was a little harsh on RBL but probably a fair assessment of the performance. They just sold their primary striker/scorer (really surprised Timo didn't want to wait until RBL had finished their CL run). And RBL always plays out better from the back with Adams in the lineup, but  Nagelsmann didn't want to start him--curious. Adams finally came on after the match was decided, so I think the manager lacks experience in these big games.

  14. frank schoon replied, August 20, 2020 at 8:21 a.m.

    R2, it is not that RBL has better build up with Jason. If you look at how RBL builds up ,they do it  wrong and not follow the principles I've's not about one player, Jason. As a matter of fact he is not a good technical player ,he is a defender type. The problem with RBL is there poor field positioning in the build up, not to mention the stupid mistakes they make in the build up.

  15. humble 1, August 21, 2020 at 1:32 p.m.

    Thank you for the article Paul.  Thanks to Frank also.  Learned a lot about building out of the back from your commentary.  Swear I learn more about tactics from you Frank than any other source.  All gets translated to my son. I enjoyed watching Di Maria and Neymar they were both at their best.  Been a while for the duo.  Very good stuff.  Thanks again guys.  Keep it going! 

  16. frank schoon replied, August 21, 2020 at 3:01 p.m.

    Humble , Thank you. There is more to the build up from out of the back as I have stated so far.  But trust me this stuff comes straight from the horse's mouth as well as I added some things to it sort of like corolaries. There is a lot more to this build up than what I've explained,  so much more.

    I've written sort of a paper on explaining the build up, and summerized it for example the 34 Keywords you need to know or follow in dealing with Building up; or 34 ways how to maintain Tempo of play in the build up; and 72 ways that causes Improper build up. I broke it all down and explained it. I've offered SA to write a 2or 3 part series on how to properly build up an attack following the Cruyff principles several months ago but haven't any reply from SA.

    Let me just add a couple things here to make it clearer on what I've stated concerning the backs. . I've stated that the backs should not be employed when building up but only use them on attack. You will see often the back receiving the ball from the goalie or the centerback. Once the back receives the ball the other side or flank is totally out of the play for they are too far away. That the means the team ,in effect, is playing 7v10. In other words BAD FIELD POSITIONING. The back is blocked, the build up is stopped and the ball is usually returned to the goalie or to the centerback....there goes your build up! And in the end the ball might either be kicked long upfield which can create a 50/50 situation or rather 40/60 situation in favor of the opponent. Or the ball is passed in the backfield to the other flank via a pass from the centerbacks to the opposite back.... Either way,  the build up has been prevented, slowed down or stimied which all works in favor of the opponents.

    What is important here is the Backline should not start the build up. You want the first pass to go further up field to a midfielder let us. This does 3  things, one , right away you have more players behind the ball ,speaking defensively, and two, you the build up is much faster for you can maintain a quick attacking tempo by employing the 3rd man off the ball. In other words the midfielder further upfield receiving the pass will have his back facing downfield but as the ball is coming to him there is a third man in a previous line or station  before him facing downfield running and receiving the one-touch pass given to him by this midfielder. In other words the pass further upfield skips a station but allows this station to receive the one-touch pass. And three, the initial pass going further upfield means also it will be to players who have better skills unlike your backs, centerbacks, and goalie when they fool around with the ball in the backfield, who also lack the creativity and passing ability....

  17. humble 1 replied, August 22, 2020 at 1:58 a.m.

    For someone like myself, the context of these fine SA articles helps me digest your commentary.  Where I to read a technical manual, as I have tried, without the game context, maybe I would not get it. Thanks again.  Keep it going!   

  18. frank schoon replied, August 22, 2020 at 10:31 a.m.

    Humble, you hit the nail right on the head, "without game context"...that's the secret. 40 years ago , I decided to buy some some dutch soccer training manuals and books to see how I could coach and train. I quickly learned that this wasn't the way, for it showed me nothing and resulted in throwing all these books away. I began to think about  how I learned the game and developed back in Holland and ofcourse, it was through Pickup soccer. I also figured out to learn the deeper insights of the game is to read ,biographies of players and there I found nuggets although not in every book. I was willing to spend the money just to get a few nuggets of interesting info and insights. Read Bergkamp's book, or Zlatan's or Cruyff's...for starters. I read Stanley Matthews book. There are many good books,  if you like just ask me and I can give you some names. I'm more than willing to help you out...

    What I also did was to subscribe to  dutch soccer magazines and read interviews of players for there interesting nuggets to be gotton, especially when it comes to Cruyff and other greats of Holland. I took notes for about 40years on things and I listened to what Cruyff and his compadres had to say during halftime as commentators. Going back and watch the game you can look for what they say. 
    Fortunately, the Dutch are very thorough when watching the game for its details and are very critical and therefore they tend to analyze everthing. The Italians, the English, Germans , or Belgians don't, so in that sense I consider myself lucky to have grown up in an environment where we analyze things and therefore you so much more.  Spain  has a lot of dutch influence over the years likewise does the same. Unfortunately ,this expertise is not to be found in American soccer journalism or from soccer commentators for they lack the deeper insights of the game...It's all about ,Gee, Golly, Wow....Let's say it is very poor.


  19. frank schoon replied, August 22, 2020 at 10:31 a.m.

    There was an interesting interview on Youtube with Wim Jonk who played for Ajax and worked with Johan Cruyff and ran youth development of Ajax up until a few years ago; he was Cruyff's mouthpiece. He stated when Cruyff would come visit from Spain he would watch the Ajax youth play. Jonk stated that Cruyff would look for the "PRINICIPLES" of good soccer that he wants to see being played and wasn't really concerned about how they played the 4-3-3 system. Currently, i'm going through my note of 40years for I have all or many of them and try sort of 'officially' categorize them. Some of those principle are found in the comments I made like on the 'Build up'...Passes should not be square or backwards, but forwards, in other words, "A good pass is one that beats an opponent." When I state don't pass backwards, don't take that literally, it means you can pass back  in order to get ball forwards. But what happens so often a backpass is a backpass ,then it goes square, with no thought or purpose other than " I got rid of the ball".

    Take those nuggets and with a little creative thinking certain doors will open up in your mind and it will begin to point you to other situations. 

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