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Neymar's Not Enough: Brazil Needs Hulk to Be Huge, Too

The striker puts power over finesse, and that's just what the Green and Yellow needs

Buda Mendes/Getty Images Sport

The nicknames worn by Brazilian soccer players—"Garrincha," "Kaká," "Ronaldinho"—are footballing noms de guerre, implying special powers. With Givanildo Vieira de Souza, the process has been streamlined: He is named after a superhero.

Hulk's parents gave him his nickname as a three-year-old, according to one version of the story, because he liked watching the cartoon. As he grew up, he developed a powerful physique befitting his avatar. Brazilian attacking forwards are often slight and nimble-footed; Hulk is the least Brazilian Brazilian striker you have ever seen, a brute rather than a ballet dancer.

His story is also remarkable. From the northeastern state of Paraíba, whose inhabitants are derided by the rest of Brazil for being poor and badly educated, Hulk played only two appearances for a provincial Brazilian team before, aged 18, transferring to a team in Japan. Today, his professional side is Zenit Saint Petersburg. He is an outsider at home, because of where he comes from and how he plays. He is an outsider in world football, having never played for a major team in a top league. And yet he is likely to play a crucial role in Brazil's forward line—the glamour positions in any team, but this is Brazil!—as the hosts seek to keep the World Cup trophy for themselves.