Brazil coach defends Neymar: One of the greatest in history

Brazil coach Fernando Diniz has said that Neymar is “one of the greatest players in the history of world football” after recent criticism of the talismanic forward.

Neymar was hit by a bag of popcorn thrown from the stands by supporters, an incident that Diniz condemned, after Thursday’s 1-1 home draw with Venezuela.

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He was then criticized for his performance in the media and by fans.

“No coach in the world would give up on Neymar with the hunger he has and the desire he has,” Diniz said.

“Again, [against Venezuela] he was decisive, he provided an assist. I already said that Neymar is one of the greatest players in the history of Brazilian football and world football.”

Neymar, 31, last month overtook Pelé to become Brazil’s all-time men’s top scorer with 79 goals in 125 international appearances.

“One thing worth mentioning is Neymar’s numbers, he is first in almost all important aspects for a striker,” Diniz said. “First in goals, assists, goal participation, dribbling, first in a score on the specialized website… the numbers explain why he is here.”

The Al Hilal forward, who has represented Brazil since 2010, was upset by the popcorn incident.

“I don’t come here on vacation, much less to go for a walk, I came to do what I love most, which is to play football and defend my country,” Neymar said.

“Obviously, we are there doing our best, giving our best, and often the result doesn’t come, and it is not what the fans expect.”

Against Venezuela, Neymar set up Gabriel Magalhães for Brazil’s goal but had a game-high 18 misplaced passes and missed several chances.

Real Madrid forward Rodrygo recently came to the defence of his compatriot, highlighting his importance on and off the pitch.

“It doesn’t change anything if he [Neymar] is 31 or not, he continues with the same quality as always,” Rodrygo said.

“He remains our main player. Of course, when we lose or draw a game, the responsibility will be greater on him but when we win, it becomes clear that he is our best player and we depend a lot on him.”

Brazil are second in their 10-team South American qualifying group with seven points from three games, two points adrift of World Cup holders Argentina.

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