Neymar upped his performance against Mexico, from an already high level, but his cry baby antics are pissing off football pundits across the globe.
Brazil deservedly beat Mexico in their round of 16 match in Samara today. And this was their best performance of the competition so far. It was also Neymar’s best game: he scored a goal, set up another and tormented Mexico’s defence throughout. But his habit of exaggerating fouls and rolling around are getting more and more ridiculous with each match. I haven’t been on Twitter today, but I bet that it is on a Neymar-inspired meltdown.
Some will be talking about how well he played, which is great. But many – probably many more – will be talking about his theatrics. Its a shame really, because it overshadows the football. He gets a lot of rough treatment from defenders and I’ve defended him in the past. And in today’s game the opponent deliberately dug his stud into Neymar’s shin. That must have hurt and the Mexican player should have been sent off.
But rolling round, like his body is going into some sort of spasm, is absurd and comical. Not only do millions of people now think he is an idiot, but it is also becoming costly for him and the team since nobody, including the referee, has any sympathy for him anymore. Neymar has officially become the little boy who cried wolf. I was bombarded with Neymar diving memes last week and after today, they will only be getting worse.
Поговаривают, что Неймар так и катится прямо до Самары pic.twitter.com/7FPfrFGPBq
— MAXIM (@ru_maximonline) June 29, 2018
Neymar’s theatrics might be a big talking point, but they really are just a sideshow. What really matters is the football and in that respect, Brazil’s performance today was very good. Mexico dominated the first fifteen minutes, but after weathering that initial storm, Brazil controlled this game. They opened the scoring early in the second half, but they didn’t take their foot off the gas like they did against Switzerland. They might have only sealed the win late on thanks to Roberto Firmino’s goal (set up by Neymar), but if it wasn’t for the heroics of Mexico’s goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, the margin of victory would have been much bigger than the final 2 – 0 scoreline.
Willian had his best game of the tournament so far, which is a big plus after his poor showings against Switzerland and Costa Rica. Were it not for Douglas Costa’s injury, he would probably have lost his place. It looks like Douglas Costa will be fit for the next game, but I think Willian has now done enough to keep his place in the starting line up. Either way, Tite will be really happy that he has options and that Willian has rediscovered his form. Brazil can’t afford to just rely on Neymar to win this competition; they need a flying winger on each side. Today, that’s exactly what they had.
For the first goal, Neymar started the move with one of his trademark runs, slaloming in from the left wing. After leaving a few players in his wake, but running out of space to shoot, he rolled the ball back to Willian, who took over the show. He darted down the line and whipped a perfect ball into the middle, which found Neymar, who had carried on his run. This was not the Neymar against Costa Rica, who slowed the game down and let Brazil’s moves lose momentum. Everything here was done at pace and with purpose. He gambled. And it paid off.
Willian was reinvigorated too and a weight seems to have been lifted from his shoulders. He was unlucky not to score himself after one excellent run and shot, which burned the hands of Ochoa. Neymar may have taken most of the international headlines for his performance today and been voted as FIFA’s man of the match, but interestingly, Willian was the best-rated player according to readers’ responses on Brazilian website Globoesporte. 78% of respondents said he was excellent, which was higher than the number that said Thiago Silva (73%) or Neymar (68%) were excellent.
Gabriel Jesus might not have scored, again, but I thought he also played well. His movement was good and he was unlucky not to score. Significantly, he didn’t play like a player short of confidence. Reports from the Brazil camp say that not only is Tite happy with the player’s performances, but he has the backing of his teammates too. One reason is his work rate: against Serbia, for example, he ran more than any other Brazilian player. There will be calls for Roberto Firmino to start the next match after he scored when coming on today, but I think that Tite will stick with Gabriel Jesus against Belgium.
I should wrap up with a few words on Brazil’s defence. Today might have been the day that we finally saw Brazil click in attack, but their defence was excellent once again. Mexico posed a threat during the match, particularly on the counter attack, but Brazil’s defence upper their game whenever they needed to and Miranda, Thiago Silva and co dealt with whatever Mexico threw at them. When they need to scrap for it, they do, and Brazil kept a clean sheet for the third consecutive game thanks to this good attitude. The only negative was Casemiro’s yellow card, which rules him out of the next game.
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