Imagine being one of the best professional athletes in the world, possessing all the skill, talent and agility others could only dream of having, only for it to be undone as the whole world sighs in frustration as you once again collapse to the floor like a B-list actor.
That, in a nutshell, is Brazil’s talisman, Neymar.
For all his genius and devastating ability – which can change a game in seconds – it’s unbelievable to watch, as each time he’s touched, he’ll go down like a sack of potatoes dropped in the middle of the ocean.
According to one strange statistic, the Seleção’s main man has spent just under 14 minutes on the floor ‘in pain’ during the World Cup so far.
As we waved goodbye to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo last Saturday (June 30) it felt like it was the beginning of the end of their international career – that being said, I wouldn’t put it past either of them if both players were called back for Qatar 2022.
With their departure, you’d think now is the opportunity for Neymar to step up and usher a new era of great footballers.
For the most part he’s done it, showing off his trademark trickery on the ball, bagging himself two goals and proving to be the lynchpin in Brazil’s success throughout the tournament (although I must say Willian and Coutinho are close seconds).
But he’s also let himself down by his incessant play-acting in front of referees – this week’s second-round knockout game between Mexico (on July 2) is the most recent example.
RTS Sport claim the Paris Saint-Germain forward has spent a total of 14 minutes rolling on the floor at this year’s World Cup. During their 2-0 win over Mexico, Neymar was the centre of attention for both the right and unfortunately, wrong reasons.
He bagged a goal and an assist but he sullied his Man of the Match performance when Mexico’s full-back, Miguel Layun, gently stepped on the Brazilian’s ankle.
Brazil’s number 10 began to wail and writhe as if it was a stamp, waving his arms to communicate great pain. Now in Neymar’s defence, Layun shouldn’t have done that… it was a bit naughty.
On the other hand, you get the sense Neymar knew full well what he was doing. His over dramatic reaction prompted criticism from the footballing community.
Newcastle and England legend, Alan Shearer, wasn’t impressed by Neymar’s antics and was very vocal about it.
During a post-game analysis on Match of The Day he said:
It was absolutely pathetic. There is no doubting his ability, we saw a backheel, a finish and setting up of the second goal but it is pathetic when he is rolling around pretending to be in agony. Why does he feel the need to do that?
BBC Sport’s John Bennett, who was in Samara for the game, said:
It embodied the best and worst of Neymar rolled (pun intended) into one.
He created some of the old magic in Samara and is clearly regaining match fitness step by step but yet again his performance will be overshadowed by his theatrics and he’ll make the headlines for the wrong reasons.
While Mexico’s manager, Juan Carlos Osorio, simply called it:
…a shame for all football. It’s a negative example for the game, it’s a charade.
However, if you ask Neymar if he cares, he’ll most likely tell you the criticism doesn’t phase him.
He’s previously stated:
Look, I think it’s more an attempt to undermine me than anything else.
I don’t care much for criticism, or praise, because it can influence your attitude. In the last two matches I didn’t talk to the press because I didn’t want to.
Bennett does point out how Neymar has been the most fouled player in the tournament so far ‘and he is regularly the target of rough treatment’. I guess you have to milk it for all its worth then?
Neymar and Brazil are in action tomorrow as they take on tournament favourites Belgium in the quarter-finals.
The two will battle it out for a place in the semis where they’ll face either France or Uruguay.
You can catch the match on BBC One and ITV, with kickoff at 7:00 pm.
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