Ex Brazil star Ronaldo defends Neymar against play acting claims

Among those to criticize Neymar in recent days are former England strikers Gary Lineker and Alan Shearer, Argentina legend Diego Maradona and Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio.

Ronaldo called on critics to be more objective and said that referees were not providing sufficient protection for Neymar.   -  AP

Brazil football great Ronaldo has leapt to the defence of his compatriot Neymar, refuting claims the Selecao forward has been play-acting during the FIFA World Cup in Russia.

Among those to criticize Neymar in recent days are former England strikers Gary Lineker and Alan Shearer, Argentina legend Diego Maradona and Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio, reports Xinhua news agency.

But, Ronaldo called on critics to be more objective and said that referees were not providing sufficient protection for Brazil’s No. 10. “We have to be more technical in our comments and not like punters in a bar,” Ronaldo said during an event in Moscow on Wednesday.

“Football is interpreted in many different ways and there are many opinions. Neymar uses his mobility to defend himself from the bumps and hits that are dished out to him. The referees have given him little protection,” the 2002 World Cup winner added.

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“He is a great talent. When I was repeatedly targeted with violent actions, I felt that I was treated unjustly. The criticism is stupid and the response that he is providing for the national team is marvellous. We still haven’t seen the best of him.”

With the early elimination of Germany, Argentina and Spain, Brazil is now strong favourite to win its sixth World Cup as the competition enters its final 12 days. Tite’s team has been unbeaten in its four matches so far, here, conceding just a goal in the process.

Its next assignment is a quarterfinal clash with Belgium on Friday. The winner will play either France or Uruguay in the semifinal, four days later.

Meanwhile, Ronaldo said that he hoped Brazil could avoid a semifinal clash with France, which progressed to the last eight by defeating Argentina 4-3, inspired by a Kylian Mbappe brace. “We always have problems playing against France, so I hope they get knocked out before facing Brazil,” Ronaldo said.

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