June 23, 2018 / 10:26 AM / 2 months ago

Brazil win but old questions of mental focus persist

SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Brazil’s late World Cup win over Costa Rica takes them to the top of the Group E but they have failed to convince in their two matches so far and the focus is once again shifting to the South American side’s old foe – emotional stability.

Soccer Football - World Cup - Group E - Brazil vs Costa Rica - Saint Petersburg Stadium, Saint Petersburg, Russia - June 22, 2018 Brazil's Neymar scores their second goal as Costa Rica's Keylor Navas looks on REUTERS/Lee Smith

Neymar broke down in tears when the final whistle went as the relief of two goals in stoppage time flooded out of him.

Pictures of the world’s most expensive player crying on the pitch after the 2-0 win on Friday brought back memories of four years ago when captain Thiago Silva sobbed uncontrollably ahead of the penalty kicks decider against Chile in the last 16.

Brazil were questioned at that tournament for their psychological readiness – the players’ looked seriously freaked by Neymar’s absence ahead of their 7-1 capitulation to Germany in the semi-final - and the same questions are starting to be asked now.

Soccer Football - World Cup - Group E - Brazil vs Costa Rica - Saint Petersburg Stadium, Saint Petersburg, Russia - June 22, 2018 Brazil's Neymar celebrates scoring their second goal REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

In a typically defiant post on Instagram, Neymar claimed his tears were of joy and his team mates defended his public display of emotion.

“I think you have to let it out, a great weight was lifted off our shoulders,” Thiago Silva said, in quotes reported by Globo’s website. “I told him that (crying) is good. Cry as much as you want, only you know what you went through to be at the World Cup.”

Brazil’s oscillating emotions were also laid bare in other comments made by Silva.

A team mate of Neymar’s at Paris St Germain, he said he was upset at his friend for swearing at him for returning the ball to the Costa Ricans in a show of fair play.

The tempestuous forward was, in addition, caught several times on camera swearing at the referee in Portuguese.

Slideshow (4 Images)

Neymar’s obsession with social media has undoubtedly opened him up to more criticism - and pressure - than ever but former players acknowledged even the most balanced individual is under massive stress in Russia.

“The demands on the players here at the World Cup are huge,” Ronaldo, who won the World Cup in 1994 and 2002, said in a TV Globo broadcast. “The team didn’t play bad but so much is expected of them.”

Brazil’s next game is against Serbia on Wednesday.

The Brazilians are now in pole position at the top of the group with four points, ahead of Switzerland who also have four, on goal difference.

Serbia are in third place with three points with only two teams qualifying for the knockout stage. Costa Rica are bottom of the standings and already out the tournament.

Reporting by Andrew Downie; Editing by Christian Radnedge

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