Kaka Pleads Patience on Neymar
Kaka Pleads Patience on Neymar
Brazil are loaded with big international stars, but none more so than Neymar – every teenage girl’s favourite pin-up. Neymar has the technique and skill to set the world alight, but he’s carrying a niggling foot injury which he picked up playing for his club side Paris Saint-Germain back in February. And then in Brazil’s disappointing 1-1 draw with Switzerland, Neymar copped a knock to the ankle. That was a match in which the physical Swiss fouled Neymar a record number of times.
Kaka, a former Brazil great, called for patience on Neymar, hailing Philippe Coutinho for picking up the slack and leading Brazil in their first two group games. Coutinho scored in both, “We see Coutinho as the protagonist, the most decisive player in Brazil.” Kaka himself sustained a lot of injuries during his playing career, which included three trips to the FIFA World Cup (2002, 2006 and 2010). Brazil lifted the trophy in 2002, but have faced disappointment since, including that 2014 semifinal mauling by Germany on home soil.
The Canarinho (as Brazil are affectionately known) are the most famous, the most skilled and arguably most loved of national football teams. But it can’t be easy when everyone expects you to win all the time. Kaka knows the pressure coach Tite and the team are under and endorsed the way things are being done: “Neymar is our best player and I think Tite is doing great work on managing him and trying to get him as comfortable as possible and trying to make the group stronger.” Kaka, who played for AC Milan, knows what it’s like to manage the body, and the mind, in big competitions. He called for patience on the Neymar issue: “He's been recovering for about three months. It takes some time. We see him growing every game, and I think we must protect him. Protect him regarding his emotional state and encourage him. And wait, because he is going to achieve, he is going to reach his maximum on the pitch regarding his physical condition.”
A fit an in-form Neymar could be the difference between Brazil extending their record of World Cup wins, or them facing another embarrassing exit. Brazil have won five World Cups, with Germany and Italy tied second on four titles. Italy are not at this tournament, but Germany – with Toni Kroos in fine form – have the squad to defend the title they won in 2014.
Kaka believes that the rise of social media makes things tough on the big-name players. “This World Cup is very different from those I played. Nowadays, social media is so present in our lives. We had to look for information then, and now players have everything they need in their hands. It makes a difference.”
He would like to see Neymar enjoy the sort of respect and care afforded to Cristiano Ronaldo, saying Brazil should treat him, “Like Portugal does with Ronaldo. Make Neymar comfortable to do his best and focus on what he likes the most ... being on the pitch, scoring goals, enchanting the fans.”
Brazil must draw with Serbia to guarantee their spot in the final 16. Also in Group E, Switzerland have everything to play for against Costa Rica. A win or draw against the South Americans should see them through.
Brazil vs Serbia (Kwesé Free Sports, 27 June at 19:45 CAT)
Switzerland vs Costa Rica (Kwesé Sports 1, 27 June at 19:45 CAT)