PARIS (Reuters) - Brazil striker Neymar, despite his young age, has what it takes to handle the pressure of a World Cup finals on home soil, according to soccer great Pele.
The 22-year-old forward joined Barcelona from Santos last year on a five-year deal, scoring his first La Liga goal in late September as he slowly bulked up for the demands of European football.
“He is a great player,” Pele, a triple World Cup winner, told a news conference at the Paris City Hall on Monday as the World Cup trophy was displayed in the French capital.
”He is gaining experience in Europe, where the game is tougher than in Brazil.
“For him (Barca) is a good opportunity. He will come back to Brazil with some experience.”
Neymar has produced some inspirational performances for Brazil, scoring 30 goals in 47 matches - including a hat-trick in last week’s 5-0 friendly win over South Africa.
Brazil last hosted the World Cup in the 1950 when they were beaten by Uruguay in the final - a defeat, Pele said, still played on the mind of Brazilians.
“It will be a big pressure. It will be our revenge. The idea is to wipe away that memory, hopefully this year,” he said.
Brazil were drawn in Group A with Mexico, Cameroon and Croatia, against whom they will open proceedings on June 12 in Sao Paulo.
Pele, a special advisor of the World Cup organising committee, now hopes nothing will disturb the football extravaganza from June 12-July 13.
The country was gripped by a wave of discontent during the Confederations Cup last year with demonstrators repeatedly clashed with police in protest against high taxes, inflation, corruption and poor public services.
“My concern is what could happen during the World Cup,” said Pele.
”The Confederations Cup was an important event, as will the World Cup and the (2016 Summer) Olympic Games be, for Brazil to attract tourists.
“It is not a good idea to stage demonstrations because the Brazilian national team promotes Brazil. It’s not their fault if there is corruption in the country.”
Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Justin Palmer