Eden Hazard and Neymar experienced two vastly different tournaments at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
The Belgian helped his nation to their best-ever finish while registering three goals and two assists en route to a third-place play-off victory over England.
His Brazilian counterpart, however, was anything but the star of the competition he was hyped up to be during the weeks leading up to it.
Neymar managed two goals and two assists as the Selecao paved their path to the quarter-finals where they met Hazard and co. at the Kazan Arena.
That’s where the 2018 World Cup ended for the South Americans courtesy of a 2-1 defeat to Roberto Martinez’s men, but it might’ve been a relief for Neymar in some ways.
Just shy of 12 months before the start of the group stage, the Paris Saint-Germain striker became the most expensive footballer in history following his £200 million move from Barcelona.
But if the pressure of his enormous price tag coupled with the expectation of an entire nation wasn’t enough, Neymar’s task was made all the more difficult by a three-month injury lay-off amid Brazil’s final preparations for Russia.
In truth, he was lucky to even be fit for the tournament - and it appeared to come across in each of his five outings.
Neymar has been known to exaggerate contact throughout his career, but on the biggest stage in world sport, his antics attracted far more stinging criticism than ever before.
The 26-year-old was calculated to have spent 14 minutes rolling around on the pitch in response to being fouled or perhaps merely dispossessed by a legitimate challenge.
EDEN HAZARD ON NEYMAR'S DIVING
While fans and the media didn’t take kindly to Neymar’s theatrics, Eden Hazard feels the treatment of his PSG rival was uncalled for.
“[It was] totally inappropriate," he told HLN, per Goal.
"Neymar suffered the same injury two months before the World Championships as I did in June 2017 - a break between the ankle and the foot. He was out for a month and a half.
"I can assure you: the body is not immediately ready for top performance again. Yet in Russia, all responsibility came to his shoulders.
“He had to be the star of the tournament, he had to carry Brazil to the world title, he had to dribble, and all media peeked.
"Plus, I know Neymar: he also wants to give the audience something.
"You cannot criticise someone like that who did not even play a bad World Cup.”
Clearly unaffected by what people made of his campaign his Russia, Neymar has started the club season in similarly good form to Hazard, scoring 11 goals in as many matches to date.
But perhaps people were quick to attack Neymar at the World Cup because the player we know he can be was nowhere to be seen at the World Cup.
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