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Brazilians want young striker Neymar in World Cup
By TALES AZZONI
Associated Press
2010-04-15 11:54 PM
Forget about Ronaldinho, Brazilians really want young sensation Neymar in the World Cup.

Neymar scored five times in Santos' trashing of Guarani in the round of 16 of the Brazilian Cup on Wednesday, yet another impressive performance by the 18-year-old striker which has increased calls for his presence in the national team in South Africa.

Until recently, two-time FIFA player of the year Ronaldinho was the one most Brazilians wanted to see back in the national team.

The AC Milan playmaker had been getting a push from Brazilian fans and media who wanted coach Dunga to summon him ahead of the World Cup, but the enthusiasm behind his name has steadily lost momentum after each impressive outing by Neymar and his Santos teammates, including Robinho, who scored twice on Wednesday and has virtually secured a World Cup spot.

But not even Robinho is getting much attention in Brazil these days. Everybody is talking about Neymar.

Pele has said he would take the striker to the World Cup, and so did former Brazil stars Romario and Zico. Many current players are also behind the young sensation, and the Brazilian media is increasingly saying that Dunga should take him to South Africa.

"After each minute and each second that goes by, I see myself wearing the Selecao jersey," Neymar said. "I've been trying to play well and score goals. Hopefully Dunga is watching. The dream is not over."

Neymar has played for Brazil Under-16s and Under-17s but never been summoned to the senior national team, and he is running out of time to make the final squad for the World Cup.

Dunga has praised the youngster, but he is more likely to stick to those players who have been with him since he took over the national team after the 2006 World Cup.

Robinho, Adriano, Nilmar and Luis Fabiano have been Dunga's regulars so far on attack, and the coach has hinted there will be no more surprises to his squad.

"Every player wants to be in the national team," Neymar said. "It's everybody's dream and I'm glad to have so many people wanting me to be in the national team. I'll keep playing hard, hopefully there's a spot left for me."

The speedy and skillful striker, called by many the new Robinho, has caught the attention of several European clubs. Chelsea reportedly is after him, and Santos president Luis Alvaro de Oliveira Ribeiro told local media on Wednesday that he was approached by Real Madrid officials seeking to negotiate the player's transfer.

"NeyMessi," read a headline in the Brazilian sports daily Lance on Thursday. The Spanish newspaper Marca had already called Neymar the "Brazilian Messi."

Santos' president said he was not willing to sell the player in the near future, and Neymar said he was not thinking about that either.

"I don't think it's time yet," Neymar said. "I'm focused only on Santos."

With the help of Neymar and Robinho, the club made famous by Pele in the 1960s is the hottest team in Brazilian football. It has scored 53 goals in its last 10 matches, and 90 in all 26 matches so far this season, an average of 3.4 goals per match.

It can advance to the quarterfinals of the Brazilian Cup even if it loses the return match against Guarani by six goals, and it is close to advancing to the finals of the traditional Sao Paulo state championship after it beat rival Sao Paulo 3-2 in the first leg of the semifinals last Sunday. It can afford to lose the second match next weekend by a single goal.

Some of the team's impressive victories this season include a 10-0 win over Naviraiense, a 6-3 victory over Bragantino, a 9-1 routing of Ituano and a 5-0 trashing of Monte Azul.

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