Brazil is under immense pressure to win the World Cup on its home soil, and the cracks began to show during their penalty-kick victory over Chile on Saturday. Neymar, David Luiz and Julio Cesar were seen crying before the shootout even began, and Thiago Silva — the team’s captain, no less — asked not to be included among the players taking the kicks.
This lack of emotional fortitude is not going over well in Brazil. “I see a team that is visibly nervous, I see a team that is tense, I see a team that is a bit desperate,” columnist Antero Greco wrote in the O Estado de S Paulo newspaper, per the Guardian, which also reported that John Ricardo Cozac, president of the Sao Paulo Association of Sport Psychology, said the team “demonstrated a dangerous lack of emotional control.”
“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,” Zico, who led Brazil to three World Cups in the 1970s and ’80s and is considered one of the country’s greatest soccer players, told the Telegraph.
Said Carlos Alberto, Brazil’s World Cup captain in 1970: “The team is crying when they’re singing the anthem, when they get hurt, when they shoot penalties! Come on… Stop crying! Enough! They say it’s the pressure from playing at home. But they should have been prepared for this.”
Sensing his team was on the brink of emotional catastrophe, Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari has called in some reinforcements. Per the Guardian:
To ease the situation, he called on the psychologist Regina Brandão, who provided him with a profile of the players ahead of the tournament. She has yet to comment on the team’s state of mind, but criticised the media for ill-informed speculation about the lack of mental preparedness.
Only six members of the 23-man squad have played in a World Cup – Júlio César, Fred, Daniel Alves, Maicon, Thiago Silva and Ramires. But the players have said they are getting tougher with each game.
Repeatedly asked about the mental state of the team earlier this week, the midfielder Fernandinho said they were simply responding to the higher stakes.
“The emotions are becoming stronger. Crying reflects this. But I believe we will be better prepared for these situations after a game like [the one we had against Chile]. Things will become normal,” he told a press conference.
Brazil faces Colombia on Saturday at 4 p.m. EDT in the quarterfinals. Neymar, for one, thinks calling in the psychologist was a good idea.
“I had never done anything like it before and I am quite enjoying it,” he told the Telegraph. “It is not only us, in football, who are surrounded by emotion every day and need psychologists. I think it could do every person good, to make one more relaxed.