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Jun 13, 2013

Neymar seeks to reproduce Santos form

BRASILIA, Brazil -- Neymar acknowledges that he finds it difficult to replicate his Santos success with the Brazilian national team.

Neymar thrived with the elite Brazilian club to become one of the world's most talked-about players, earning a multi-million euro transfer to Barcelona. But with Brazil, he hasn't lived up to expectations so far.

He said Thursday that he isn't bothered by the criticism over his lackluster performances with the national team, and expects to be improving the more he plays for Brazil.

The 21-year-old striker said that it's natural that in the national team he hasn't been able to play as well as he used to for Santos, where he had more chances to display his skills.

"It's obvious that in the Selecao I can't be the same type of player that I was at Santos," Neymar said. "I'm playing the same way as I always play, I didn't change that at all. But's it's more difficult to play in the national team than it was with Santos. I had more space there, that doesn't happen against other national teams."

He also said that with Brazil he has to defend a little more than he had to while playing with Santos.

"Each player has his role in the national team. We have a coach, and I have to do what he needs me to do," Neymar said. "Sometimes I have to mark, I can't only worry about attacking."

Neymar said that with Santos everyone in the team already knew him well, but in the national team it will take some time for others to get used to his style.

"With time it will become easier because the other players will get to know me better and I will know them better," he said.

Neymar has experienced more disappointment than success with Brazil. The Confederations Cup will be his third significant competition with the national team. He helped Brazil's under-20 squad win the South American championship in 2011, but his first test with the senior team was the 2011 Copa America, when Brazil was eliminated by Paraguay in the quarterfinals.

The second was in the 2012 London Olympics, when he was the star of the Brazilian squad that was favored to win its first Olympic gold medal in football but left with the silver after a loss to Mexico.

"This will be one of the most important tournaments of my career and I want to do well," he said. "We want to win the title now and then succeed in the World Cup next year too."

Neymar has scored 20 goals in 34 matches with the national team, but he hasn't found the net in nine straight matches, including some with Santos. If he fails to score in Brazil's Confederations Cup opener against Japan on Saturday, it will mark his longest career streak without a goal.

He scored three times with Brazil this year, twice against Bolivia and once against Chile, when only players from domestic clubs were selected.

"That doesn't change anything for me," Neymar said. "I'm helping the national team in different ways and that's what matters. I know that the goals will come with time, I'm not worried about that at all."

Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said he isn't bothered by the scoreless streak.

"He has been doing what I ask him to do," Scolari said. "I'm extremely satisfied with what he has been doing for the national team so far."

During the Confederations Cup, Neymar will be wearing the No. 10 Brazil jersey that Pele made famous.

"It's a symbolic number," he said. "The No. 10 was always well represented by many great Brazilian players, it's a dream for me to get to wear it."

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