RIO DE JANEIRO: Brazilians watched their team’s excruciatingly hard-fought win Friday over minnow Costa Rica in a cold sweat but it was Neymar’s hot tears that really made the footballing-mad nation sit up.
“Neymar’s crying is the big news,” declared the Blog do Menon on the leading UOL Esporte website.
The world’s most expensive footballer had just scored the second of Brazil’s two extra-time goals, finally subduing Costa Rica’s stubborn resistance — and getting a monkey off the star-studded team’s back.
At the final whistle, the striker — described as a genius by his coach Tite and a petulant brat by his many detractors — sank to the turf, sobbing. Later, Neymar tweeted that “these were tears of joy, of having overcome.”
“It’s one of the big images of the World Cup: Neymar, alone, collapsed and in floods of tears,” the UOL esporte blog said.
“These were the tears of a football player. The tears of someone who cares.”
In this generous interpretation, Neymar’s 97th minute goal was the moment when the Paris Saint-Germain scoring machine finally got his groove — and the much-hyped Brazil team along with him.
But many asked if so much emotion after beating a supposedly far inferior team pointed to crackups to come?
“It’s not normal to cry in the second game of a World Cup,” Brazil’s biggest newspaper, O Globo, headlined the main article on its website after the drama.
While acknowledging that Neymar has had a torrid buildup to the tournament, with surgery for a broken foot bone and a hugely disappointing first game against Switzerland, Globo said the tears were just too much.
“A team needs to demonstrate mental strength, not fragility. Genuine or not, Neymar’s crying is worrying,” Globo said.
“It was either the symptom of troubling instability or it was a return of Neymar’s narcissism that Neymar had managed to control so well for nearly the whole match.”
In his post-match tweet, Neymar defended himself, telling critics “not everyone knows what I went through to get here. Talk is cheap, now it’s time to act.”
“In my life, things have never been easy and won’t be now! The dream, no not the dream — the OBJECTIVE! — continues.”
While Brazilians at live screenings of the game around the country erupted in joy at the win, there was also withering criticism of Neymar for his apparently over-theatrical fall in front of the Costa Rican goal — leading to a penalty being overturned on VAR analysis.
“His artistic gesture cost Brazil the penalty,” Globo TV commentator Galvao Bueno said on air.
At least the under-pressure team can always count on Tite’s support.
The famously expressive coach celebrated so vigorously on the touchline after the first goal that he fell and rolled on the grass.
A GIF of the tumble instantly shot around Brazilian social media, with cynics asking if Tite himself hadn’t been teaching Neymar how to dive. – AFP