New Delhi, July 9: A single missing star player and an increasingly restive home crowd could be among factors that might explain host Brazil’s shocking 7-1 loss to Germany in Tuesday’s World Cup semi-final match, sports psychologists say.
The psychologists who watched the match say the absence of Neymar da Silva Santos Junior, Brazil’s highest goal-scorer so far in the 2014 World Cup, could have affected the morale of his team-mates right at the start of the game.
“The absence of Neymar’s skill and enthusiasm would have been a real blow to the team,” Rhonda Cohen, a sports psychologist at Middlesex University in the UK said. “The team may have felt somewhat defeatist going into the game.”
When the Brazilian anthem played minutes ahead of the game, two of Neymar’s team-mates held out his T-shirt in what appeared to be a symbolic gesture.
“It was clear that missing Neymar was emotional for the team,” said Adam Naylor, a clinical assistant professor of sports psychology at Boston University. “The effect on the team’s morale depends on how much players view themselves as Neymar’s followers or collaborators — the more the members of a team hero-worship one of their own players, the greater the impact on their psychology.”
The match began poorly for Brazil that was trailing 5-0 at half-time and managed to score its single goal only past the 90-minute mark during extra time.
“A spectacular opponent and truly unexpected course of the game can give the opposing team a pause,” Naylor said. “While the heart to compete for a country may still be there, the confusion of the situation can lead to a team that displays disjoined performance and lacks precision.”
Sports psychologists say the home crowd in football may in different sets of circumstances serve as a powerful motivator as well as a strong inhibitor.
“There usually is a home crowd advantage in sports,” said Cohen. “The crowd can also have a detrimental effect as they did in this game when the Brazilians were vocally negative through boos to the team and players,” Cohen said.