TERESOPOLIS, Brazil (AP) — Teammates and coaches are trying to take some of the pressure off Neymar at the World Cup, saying the Brazil star shouldn’t be the only one expected to play well and lead the team to the title.
Though usually quick to praise the youngster, the squad and staff have recently been more concerned with trying to ease the burden on Neymar of carrying the hopes of an entire nation.
“Neymar can’t win by himself and he can’t lose by himself,” Scolari said. “He is part of a group. At times he will show that he can be greater than other players, and we all know that, the players know that. But he is part of a group. He wins with the group and he loses with the group.”
The 22-year-old Barcelona forward has been Brazil’s leader on the field since Scolari began preparing the team for the home World Cup. He led Brazil to the title in last year’s warm-up tournament, the Confederations Cup, and is the squad’s top scorer with 33 goals in 51 matches.
When Neymar is on top of his game, Brazil thrives, when he’s not, it usually struggles.
“Neymar is a great player. He brought back the magic of the Brazilian player. He’s letting us dream about having a Brazilian as the best player in the world again,” Brazil defender David Luiz said.
“But he also knows that it’s not only up to him to do well. He doesn’t have to carry the responsibility of deciding every match by himself, of being the best player in every match, of scoring goals in every match, of playing well in every match.”
Neymar has also tried to lift some of the responsibility from his young shoulders.
“There are 11 players on the field, and everybody knows their role and what they need to do to try to help our team make it far in the tournament,” he said before the team’s opening match.
Neymar began the World Cup by scoring two goals in Brazil’s 3-1 win over Croatia, a victory followed by a 0-0 draw against Mexico. He had some of Brazil’s best chances against the Mexicans, but was denied by a great performance by goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa.
“He’s the player who can make the difference,” Brazil defensive midfielder Luiz Gustavo said. “He’s the type of player who can give us the victory in a difficult match.”
Neymar and Brazil play again on Monday against already eliminated Cameroon in Brasilia. The hosts need at least a draw to advance to the next round, while a win would probably be enough to secure first place in Group A.
Neymar is one of the four Brazil players going into the game with a yellow card, meaning another would rule him out of the round of 16.
Scolari knows that he has to prepare for such an eventuality.
“We are doing what we can to make sure that the team can be able to win with or without Neymar, when he is playing well or when he is being marked more closely,” Scolari said.
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