Brazil superstar Neymar on Monday brushed off his critics after firing the five-time World Cup winners to victory over Mexico and into a quarter-final showdown with Belgium.
Neymar scored one goal and created another as his increasingly impressive Brazil side overpowered Mexico 2-0 in sweltering conditions, but Neymar’s sparkling performance was tarnished by yet another example of his tendency to overreact to seemingly innocuous challenges.
The latest chapter in a bulging catalogue of histrionic behavior came in the second half, when Mexico midfielder Miguel Layun appeared to step on his ankle as he lay prone.
Neymar writhed around and convulsed as if he had received an electric shock.
“I think it’s a shame for football,” Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio said afterward, saying Neymar’s antics had wasted precious time. “We wasted a lot of time because of one single player ... we lost our style in the second half, because of the referee. This is a very bad example for the world and the world of football.”
As social media exploded with fans angrily accusing Neymar of cheating, former England striker Alan Shearer described the Paris Saint-Germain star as “absolutely pathetic.”
“There is no doubting the ability of him. He is a magnificent player, but it really is pathetic when he is rolling around as if he is in agony,” said Shearer, who is working in Russia for the BBC.
Yet Neymar shrugged off the criticism after his man-of-the-match performance, claiming it was motivated to “undermine me.”
“I don’t care much for criticism, or praise, because this can influence your attitude,” Neymar said. “In the last two matches I didn’t talk to the press because I don’t want to. I just have to play, help my teammates, help my team.”
Against Mexico, Neymar burst into life after Brazil weathered early pressure from opponents determined to end a 32-year wait to reach the quarter-finals.
The 26-year-old talisman struck the opening goal on 51 minutes to put Brazil 1-0 up.
Neymar drew several defenders as he ran across the edge of the penalty area with the ball at his feet, before passing to Willian and continuing his run.
Willian duly returned the favor and Neymar was on hand to poke the Chelsea midfielder’s superb delivery past Guillermo Ochoa.
The result was settled when Layun lost possession in the dying minutes.
Neymar went on a counterattack that drew Ochoa from his goal, before finding Roberto Firmino with the finest of touches with the outside of his right boot.
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