KEIR RADNEDGE in BELO HORIZONTE: Neymar treats the most pressured incidents in football as if he were “playing in a pick-up game with his friends at Santos.”
Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari offered the insight into his one player who, far above all others, carries all Brazil’s hopes and dreams through the World Cup finals.
The Barcelona forward is everywhere in Brazil, either on the advertisement hoardings or on the backs of fans’ shirts or in the popular ‘hairstyle’ wigs and hats all over the streets.
To justify that status would be daunting for any normal individual. But Neymar is not a normal footballer. He proved that yet again with the nerveless manner in which he puts away Brazil’s ultimately decisive fifth penalthy in the shootout victory over Chile.
Victory took Brazil – and Neymar, of course – within “three steps of heaven,” according to Scolari.
Offering an insight into his key player, Scolari said: “Neymar is 21 or 22 but he is as experienced as if he were 35. He’s very strong psychologically. There are details in his life history that show that Neymar has been ready since he was 17 or 18.
“He’s simple. He likes playing football so he does it as if he’s playing with his friends at Santos. That’s how he sees it because he loves his job. So when it comes to it he forgets it’s a penal shootout at the World Cup and treats it as if it were a pick-up game with his friends.”
Neymar took a battering from the Chileans and Scolari suggested the medical staff face a face against time to restore Neymar to full fitness in time for Friday’s quarter-final against Colombia.
Scolari described tensions between the Brazilian and Chilean benches as being like “a war” and suggested that he had been too polite to opponents for too long and now was the time to revert to his old aggressive style.
He also acknowledged that Brazil have been far from their best and ascribed that to the tension of the setting.#
Scolari said: “We were tense. It’s not easy to play in the World Cup at home. There is so much pressure for victory. But we took on ourselves this mission that we must be the champions and now the people are demanding it of us.
“If you make a promise you must deliver and this is what the players are dong. There is difficulty and anxiety but we must overcome the difficulties with victories. There are three more steps so we can reach heaven.”
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