‘Monster’ Neymar making critics look sheepish
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.
China’s Lin Dan celebrates beating India’s Srikanth Kidambi on