‘Mon­ster’ Ney­mar mak­ing crit­ics look sheep­ish

China Daily (USA) - - RIO OLYMPICS - By AGENCE FRANCEPRESSE

Brazil Olympic coach Roge­rio Mi­cale de­scribed star for­ward Ney­mar as a “mon­ster” who is too of­ten crit­i­cized af­ter he led the team to a 6-0 thrash­ing of Hon­duras on Wed­nes­day, which en­sured the host will be in Fri­day’s gold-medal match.

Ney­mar scored twice, in­clud­ing the fastest goal in Olympic his­tory af­ter just 15 sec­onds, as Brazil de­lighted a near-ca­pac­ity 78,000 crowd at theMara­cana sta­dium to­move to within one win of de­liv­er­ing a first-ever soc­cer gold medal.

“Ney­mar is a mon­ster. He has the gift of play­ing soc­cer, he de­lights ev­ery­one with his ta­lent,” Mi­cale said.

The sight of Ney­mar whip­ping up the crowd while danc­ing with his shirt off at full time com­pleted a re­mark­able turn­around from the fierce crit­i­cism he re­ceived with Brazil on the verge of an em­bar­rass­ing early exit a week ago.

Af­ter score­less draws against South Africa and Iraq in its open­ing two games, Brazil needed to beat Den­mark in the fi­nal group game to en­sure pro­mo­tion to the last eight.

How­ever, three straight wins and 12 goals scored with­out re­ply has re­stored Ney­mar’s rep­u­ta­tion as Brazil’s golden boy.

“Ney­mar has a lot of pres­sure on him. Right now he is en­joy­ing a good mo­ment, but a week ago he was suf­fer­ing a dif­fi­cult time with a lot of crit­ics,” Mi­cale said.

“He is the dif­fer­ence-maker in our group in the good sense. Ney­mar de­serves our grat­i­tude be­cause he pushes Brazil to a higher level.”

The Barcelona star has not for­got­ten the crit­i­cism he re­ceived, as he avoided the me­dia af­ter the match, draw­ing pan­tomime lo­cal jour­nal­ists.

A 2-0 win for Ger­many in the other semi­fi­nal against Nige­ria in Sao Paulo sets up an in­trigu­ing fi­nal just two years af­ter Ger­many hum­bled the Ney­mar-less host 7-1 onitsway to win­ning the 2014 World Cup.

Af­ter Ney­mar took ad­van­tage of an er­ror by Johnny Pala­cios to open the scor­ing, Manch­ester City’s Gabriel Je­sus put the game out of boos from reach for Hon­duras with two fine fin­ishes be­fore the half­time break.

Mar­quin­hos, Luan and a Ney­mar penalty rounded out the scor­ing.

Speedy for­ward Je­sus in­sisted Brazil has to be fo­cused on gold and not re­venge against Ger­many.

“The most im­por­tant thing is the gold,” said the 19-yearold. “We have to give im­por­tance to some­thing greater and now we have a very good op­por­tu­nity at home.

“It will be a huge party if we win the gold, but we have to ap­proach the game with wis­dom, tran­quil­ity and ma­tu­rity, es­pe­cially with­out get­ting anx­ious.”

The 7-1 thrash­ing to Ger­many and early ex­its from the Copa Amer­ica in each of the past two years has led to much soul search­ing about the state of the na­tional game in Brazil.

Mi­cale him­self has high­lighted the pa­tience shown in theGer­man model of bring­ing young play­ers through over time as an ex­am­ple for Brazil to fol­low.

WEI XIAOHAO / CHINA DAILY

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