Fortaleza: The growing weight of expectation on Brazil’s players, some of whom have been reduced to tears, has prompted coach Luiz Felipe Scolari to call in the team psychologist for an “urgent” extra session.
The sight of several players appearing to crack under the strain has led to a backlash from former stars, who have demanded that the squad pull themselves together. The World Cup hosts will carry the hopes of more than 200 million people when they face Colombia in the quarter-final in Fortaleza.
Brazil nearly lost to Chile, before squeezing through on penalties, with striker Neymar, goalkeeper Julio Cesar, defender David Luiz and captain Thiago Silva all crying.
Brazilian media reported that Scolari called sports psychologist Regina Brandao to the squad’s training camp “as a matter of urgency” on Tuesday, when she held a meeting with all the players and technical team. The psychologist, who has worked with Scolari for more than 20 years, tried to play down the meeting.
“The visit formed part of our initial planning,” she said. “I have classes and I couldn’t be here for long. I speak constantly with the players. We speak to each other on WhatsApp, we speak on the phone, we communicate by email.”
Yet the raw emotions of players have caused concern over whether they are psychologically equipped to deliver a home World Cup triumph. Poster-boy Neymar also cried during the national anthem at the tournament-opener against Croatia, and tears have never been far away since.
“They cry during the national anthem, they cry at the end of extra-time, they cry before and after the penalties,” said technical director Carlos Alberto Parreira.
World Cup legend Zico said a lack of self-control could damage Brazil’s chances. “There’s a lack of focus during the game, which can hurt Brazil. There are players who get emotional and forget the game. They need to have more control,” he said.
Carlos Alberto, the World Cup captain in 1970, said the team should save their tears until after they have won the final in Rio on July 13.