Slim, spiky-haired and prodigiously talented, Neymar is the child prodigy who made good on his talent and looked poised to deliver the FIFA World Cup™ for an expectant host nation. Aged just 22, such is his importance that a back injury which has ruled him out of the tournament could also dash the hopes of his 200 million compatriots.

Neymar was the main creative contributor and leading goalscorer for his team, with his strikes leading Brazil to victory in the highly-charged tournament opener and sealing the 4-1 triumph over Cameroon which took them into the knockout stages.

The No10's tears during appearances against Croatia and Chile were testament to the severe pressure that he otherwise seemed to carry lightly. And his pain and anguish while being carried off against Colombia were explained when hospital tests showed he had fractured a vertebra in his back, ending his tournament.

Brazilian World Cup-winning sides have always possessed a goalscorer in top form - from a 17-year-old Pele in 1958, to Garrincha in 1962, Jairzinho in 1970, Romario in 1994 and Ronaldo in 2002. Neymar followed in Pele's footsteps at Santos, wears the same jersey and plays in a similar carefree style - the jogo bonito that made Brazil so popular with football fans worldwide.

Playing in streets
Born in the hard-scrabble city of Mogi das Cruzes, near Sao Paulo, as the son of a professional footballer, Neymar grew up playing in the streets and indoor futsal pitches, and was talent-spotted at an early age.

He joined Santos, Brazil's most titled club, in 2003 and made his debut for them in 2009, having an instant impact as the country's young player of the year. Neymar finished the 2010 season with 42 goals in 60 games as Santos secured the Copa do Brasil and domestic Sao Paulo state championship.

In 2011, Neymar played the central role as Santos took the Copa Libertadores and the state championship again. He won the FIFA Puskas goal of the year award for an astonishing solo effort for Santos which beat out Wayne Rooney's famous overhead volley against Manchester City.

Barcelona beat Santos 4-0 in the FIFA Club World Cup final that year and it already seemed a formality that Neymar would head to Spain. But it was not until 2013 that he followed so many of his Brazil team-mates overseas - a delay that helped further endear him to Brazilian fans.

"First comes God, then family and then Neymar," Rayellen Andrade, 17, said. She's not alone, for Neymar has 12.2 million Twitter followers. His latest tweet, sent before the 2-1 win against Colombia, is not without poignancy. "May the Lord God bless us and protect us!! #insearchofadream," he wrote. They may need all Neymar's prayers now.