Brazil legend Zico has criticised Neymar’s captaincy of the country’s Olympic side, and says he fears further embarrassment for the nation with another group exit looming.
Brazil went into this summer’s Olympic football tournament as huge favourites, with Barcelona star Neymar just one of a number of top talents who were widely expected to take the gold medal, especially with most other countries not sending stars as their allotted three over-age players. (Olympic soccer players must be 23 and younger.)
However, Rogerio Micale’s side have drawn both their opening group games 0-0, the first against 10-man South Africa and the second against Iraq. They must now beat Denmark on Wednesday to avoid an early exit.
Neymar’s on- and off-the-field behaviour has brought criticism in the past from retired Selecao legends doubting he deserved to skipper the senior national team.
Former star Zico, who played in the 1980s, told Globoesporte that the 24-year-old was not showing the leadership and focus required to be a captain.
“The captain of our team is not up to being captain,” Zico said. “He must worry just about football. But, just the opposite, they just started complaining that Iraq were wasting time. They needed to play football.”
Zico said that after the Selecao’s early Copa America Centenario group exit and the 2014 World Cup semifinal humiliation by Germany on home soil, he feared something similar was about to happen now at the Olympics.
“Exit would be an embarrassment for those representing Brazilian football,” he said. “But in recent years, such embarrassment has happened a lot in Brazilian football. This would be another.”
Issues deep in the Brazilian game were a problem, Zico said, while adding that in the past, big stars had been able to come up with something big to win a game.
“Nobody can work magic in two weeks, and the Brazil team always comes together at the last moment,” he said. “There is no team organisation. And neither can we count on those beasts who used to decide games.”
Zico said the team still can turn things around, though, as there is no outstanding side in the tournament.
“I believe that Brazil will beat Denmark and can take the gold medal,” he said. “There is no team here which is dominating.”
Ahead of the make-or-break game against Denmark, with criticism of Neymar rising in his home country, Brazil coach Micale told ESPN that people should remember the senior star had made an effort to play in the tournament as an over-age player.
“If we do not respect our stars, then they will not want to be with us,” Micale said. “Neymar wanted to represent his national team.”
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