Mazinho has acclaimed Neymar as the biggest talent on planet football and backed him to emulate Romario by inspiring Brazil to FIFA World Cup™ ecstasy in Russia. The father of Thiago Alcantara and Rafinha was part of the *Seleção *side that won USA 1994 – a conquest headlined by the adidas Golden Ball recipient.
“I think so,” Mazinho told Globo when asked whether Neymar could play a similar role for Brazil in Russia as Romario did Stateside. “In 1994 we were fresh from a very bad experience in 1990, with many internal problems, and we went to the World Cup with no desire to encounter new problems. We wanted to become champions. It was a wonderful squad who paddled in the same direction.
“I’ve known Romario since 1983, when I arrived in Vasco’s youth ranks, and it was the first time that I saw him being ‘the man’. He had this reputation for not liking to train, but in the World Cup he was the first in everything. He wanted to be the top scorer, the best in the world, a champion. With the squad of winners that we had, we managed to become champions and make Romario ‘the man’ of the World Cup.
“Neymar has everything to do the same. He could win [Brazil the World Cup], and hopefully that’s what happens. It’s amazing to see a 24-year-old boy like Neymar carry such responsibility. He’s the biggest talent in Brazilian football and world football.
“But there’s another great player who has emerged and is in wonderful form, and that’s Coutinho. They are both the same age and know each other very well. Hopefully they will be the big names in the World Cup in Russia. They have everything to be.
“Neymar is not afraid of anything, he’s not afraid of taking blows. Hopefully he can be ‘the man’ and we can win the title.”
The former Fiorentina, Valencia and Celta Vigo midfielder was part of one of the most iconic celebrations in World Cup history. After Bebeto rounded goalkeeper Ed de Goey and slotted Brazil 2-0 up against the Netherlands in the USA 1994 quarter-finals, he, Romario and Mazinho performed a baby-cradling imitation. It was to honour the birth, two days earlier back in Rio de Janeiro, of Bebeto’s son Mattheus, who now plays for Estoril in Portugal.
The USA 1994 Final was Mazinho’s 35th and last appearance for his country. The Santa Rita, Paraíba native represented a Valencia side including Andoni Zubizarreta and Claudio Caniggia in a 4-2 loss to Brazil, for whom Tulio hit a hat-trick, in a 1995 friendly.