Brazil left the World Cup far earlier than expected. Neither the squad itself, or the bookmakers, who had them as favourites, never expected them to be knocked out in the quarter-finals. And now the country finds itself divided between the pain at the early exit at the hands of Belgium and indignation at seeing their biggest star, Neymar, hiding at this difficult time.
The PSG star had his second disappointing World Cup in Russia, after the tournament in his homeland in 2014. On an individual level he played his part, with two goals and two assists, but he came into the tournament off the pace, having come back from a broken bone in his foot which had kept him out of action for the three months before, and he never made quite the impact many had hoped for.
Neymar made headlines for the wrong reasons
But the Neymar’s problem is that he’s made the headlines for other reasons. He spent a huge amount of time on the ground at the World Cup (14 minutes in total BEFORE the quarter-finals, according to one study) and his rivals directly and openly criticised him for his histrionics and exaggerated responses. “This is a man’s game, not a clown’s game”, said Osorio in a rageful outburst after Brazil beat Mexico in the last 16.
Brazil fans still wanted to see Neymar
In spite of everything the Brazilian fans headed to the airport on Sunday to receive the squad as they returned home from Russia, and many of them were desperate to see their star man. But Neymar sneaked out of the back door, without being seen. A move that has been met with a barrage of criticism in Brazil.
“When Neymar ‘dribbles’ away from the press, he’s kicking the nest of the golden goose”, said Folha with a marvellous mixing of metaphors in an article reminding the PSG striker that the spectators are the main reason for his success and wealth: “The money reaches his wallet thanks to the incredible business of football, because the fan buys their ticket and gives audience to the television companies, who use it to attract advertisers”.
The press in Brazil are demanding maturity and a sense of responsibility from Neymar in these difficult moments. “Whether they like it or not, the stars who are sought out by the press need to satisfy the fans, above all after defeats or elimination from the World Cup. To explain missed goals, justify simulations and admit mistakes”.
Because Neymar has avoided the mixed zone as much as possible in Russia. He turned to social media to give signs of life to the more than 200 million inhabitants of Brazil and all the other individuals who are self-confessed fans of the star. On Saturday, after being beaten by Belgium, Neymar, or whoever writes for him on his accounts, published a message lamenting the defeat in Kazan, saying it was the saddest moment of his career.
Pelé gave an interview to anyone who asked
What’s more, distancing himself from the media and from his fans is the very opposite of what the player he aims to emulate did. In Brazil they remember all too well how Pelé behaved. “He played at Santos and wore the number 10 shirt. He won three World Cups, he scored 1,281 goals and was chosen as the outstanding athlete of the 20th century and will go down in history as one of the finest ever to play the game. He gave an interview to anyone who asked for it. Because he knew it wasn’t a favour, it was an obligation”.