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Vinicius Jr: Neymar out – no place for brilliant Brazilian to hide

Instead, it culminated in a penalty loss. And while Neymar stared at the ground in disbelief, Vinicius watched from the touchline. The Real Madrid man had wandered through his 64 minutes on the pitch aimlessly, rendered ineffective. Brazil, in truth, looked better without him.

Such has been the case for long stretches of Vinicius’ Selecao career. The Madrid man, for all of his brilliance for his club, has never pieced together a complete performance for his national team. There have been glimpses of quality, and some eye-catching moments, but a standout showing, when the stakes are at their highest, has proved elusive.

And now, that will have to change. With Neymar out for the Copa America with a torn ACL, it is Vinicius who has to carry the load for this Brazil side, and be the big-game player he has shown he can be with Madrid. Only this time, it will have to come in Brazil colors.

Vinicius Jr : His Brazil history

Vinicius’ Brazil career stalled before it could properly start. In February 2019, after a much-improved season for Madrid, long-time manager Tite called the winger up to the senior setup for the first time for a duo of friendlies with Panadam and the Czech Republic. However, he sustained a knock playing for Los Blancos, and failed to do enough over the remainder of the season to convince the manager to let him into the setup for that year’s Copa America (the Selecao won it on home soil.)

In September of that year, though, Vinicius was in. He made his senior debut against Peru, and after the resumption of international football following the Covid-19 pandemic, became a regular fixture in the Selecao team.

There was a glaring issue, though: Neymar.

Brazil’s star man tended to play off the left in a 4-2-3-1 under Tite, leaving Vinicius starved of minutes or forced to operate out of position when he put his national team shirt on. The result was a series of underwhelming showings in the famous yellow jersey. He didn’t score his first goal until 2022, and has only added two more since then.