Soccer

Neymar would add to PSG’s Brazilian contingent

Paris Saint-Germain defender Thiago Silva jumps for the ball with Juventus forward Mario Mandzukic during the first half of an International Champions Cup soccer match on Wed., July 26, 2017, at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens.
Paris Saint-Germain defender Thiago Silva jumps for the ball with Juventus forward Mario Mandzukic during the first half of an International Champions Cup soccer match on Wed., July 26, 2017, at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens. dsantiago@elnuevoherald.com

Four Brazilians played for Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday night at Hard Rock Stadium.

The arrival, perhaps imminent, of a fifth Brazilian — a famous, talented, creative and coveted fifth Brazilian named Neymar — would be most welcome.

As it was, PSG lost 3-2 on Wednesday to Italian power Juventus in an entertaining exhibition in front of 44,444 fans.

Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri, well aware of Neymar’s world-class talents, said PSG could be tough to beat if the transfer from Barcelona were to come through.

“Neymar is one of the best strikers in the world and one of the best players,” Allegri said. “He would definitely strengthen their team.”

PSG Coach Unai Emery played it coy when asked about Neymar after Wednesday’s game.

“The team is working hard,” Emery said. “We are happy with who we have. But if anyone were to come in, we would be happy as well.”

Juventus defeated PSG 3-2 on Wednesday night at Hard Rock Stadium in the warm up to Saturday's showdown between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona.

PSG fans are likely much more adamant that Neymar arrives sooner rather than later, and they are also hoping that he has a similar impact to what happened when their Paris-based side signed Brazilian-born defender Thiago Silva.

Translation: Then they started winning again — immediately.

Before Silva arrived, PSG had not won a Ligue 1 title since 1994. But with Silva, PSG won four league titles in his first four years before that streak ended this season with a runner-up finish.

On Wednesday, Silva, 32, was one of those four Brazilian natives on PSG’s roster for this friendly.

JuventusPSG_001_MHD_BCh
PSG's Thiago Silva warms up before the game as Juventus plays PSG at Hard Rock Stadium on Wed., July 26, 2017. Bryan Cereijo BCereijo@MiamiHerald.com

The list included Marquinhos, a 23-year-old central defender who is known as a “young Silva”; Dani Alves, a highly decorated 34-year-old right back who was released by Juventus, signing with PSG earlier this month; and Lucas Moura, a 24-year-old attacking midfielder who is a goal-scoring threat despite his 5-7 stature.

Of the four, only Silva, as the right center back, and Moura, as a winger/forward on the outside of PSG’s 4-3-3 alignment, started Wednesday’s game.

They were both on the field in the 45th minute on Wednesday when a defensive breakdown allowed Juventus’ Gonzalo Higuain to score all alone against PSG goalie Alphonse Areola.

“That goal was just circumstances that happen,” said Emery, not wanting to lay blame.

Silva, playing his first game since returning from a minor knee injury, is a clear star in world soccer.

He was made Brazil’s captain for the first time in the 2014 World Cup. FIFA named him the third-best central defender in the 2014 World Cup and the eighth-best player overall.

He scored the opening goal in a quarterfinal win over Colombia but missed the next match due to the accumulation of yellow cards. Without Silva, Brazil was embarrassed by Germany in that semifinal, losing 7-1.

Six-time defending Italian champion Juventus took on French favorite Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday night at Hard Rock Stadium in the week’s lesser-hyped International Champions Cup soccer match.

Italy’s Franco Baresi, regarded as one of the greatest defenders of all time, has spoken of Silva as his “heir” in terms of soccer success on the back end.

Silva has been known as a complete defender – fast, good in the air, tactically intelligent in terms of his positioning and able to calmly gain possession and start the attack.

He has played for club teams in Brazil, Portugal, Russia, Italy, and France and is still a force on defense.

Alves, meanwhile, may be on the down side of his stellar career. Normally a right back, Alves played in 247 games for Barcelona from 2008 to 2016.

He signed with PSG on July 12, 2017 after he was released by Juventus.

Before Wednesday’s game, the Juventus players were seen talking in animated fashion with Alves on the field.

“He was a very important part of our team,” Allegri said of Alves’ impact on their side. “We just joked around with him before the game.”

Joking aside, Emery said he’s thrilled with the acquisition.

“Alves will help us,” Emery said, “with his experience and his creativity.”

Related stories from Miami Herald

  Comments