Expecting a win, expecting certain players to start; expecting the star not to get injured. Expectations in football often lead to disappointment, and as such, it's often advised that the average football fan lowers them accordingly. Aim low, and you can never truly be disappointed -- but sometimes, expectations are positive and sometimes, expectations can be reached. Take Neymar for instance. Signed for €57 million from Santos, he is expected to reach the very pinnacle of this game -- and take Barcelona along with him. FIFA Ballon d'Ors, UEFA Champions Leagues, World Cups; the sky is supposed to be the limit, at least some day.
For now, the expectations are a little simpler -- Neymar should be contributing to the team as a whole, scoring when and where he can. Making a difference, just as long as he goes about it in the right way. And tonight's match was a perfect example; Neymar sat on the bench without making a fuss until he got the call to warm up. Entering the action in the 59th minute, Neymar bided his time. He didn't force anything nor vault himself into the spotlight -- he waited for that one opportunity, and simply did his job.
Finishing at the far post with a superb header, Neymar grabbed the all-important equaliser -- and again, didn't make a huge deal out of it all. No dancing, no masks; nothing out of the ordinary, even if he had just scored a completely extraordinary goal. Barcelona supporters expected him to change the game off the bench, and thankfully, Neymar could live up to those expectations.
Make no mistake, his chance was probably Barcelona's best of the game, and arguably their last against a well-drilled Atletico Madrid team. Who knows? In a week's time, it might make all the difference...