LE HAVRE, France — As the announcer at the Stade Océane cycled through Brazil’s team on Friday, before the squad dismantled Ghana, 3-0, a murmur of appreciation greeted each familiar, stellar name. Alisson was granted gentle applause. Thiago Silva earned a respectful, admiring cheer. Raphinha drew a sizzle of anticipation.
And then, leaving just a hint of a dramatic pause, the announcer came to Neymar.
There were, perhaps, mitigating circumstances. The 30-year-old Neymar was, after all, on home turf, or something very close to it. Le Havre, a sleepy port town on the Normandy coast, sits just a couple of hours northwest of Paris. The stands were dotted not just with jerseys in Brazil’s bright canary yellow but with the rich, deep blue of his Paris St.-Germain club team, too.
But still, the contrast in his reception and those of his teammates felt telling. Brazil’s squad shimmers with stars. Alisson may be the finest goalkeeper on the planet. Thiago Silva is probably the best defender of his generation. Casemiro was part of the most dominant midfield in modern history.