- JEROME PUGMIRE, AP Sports Writer
- Brazil's Neymar celebrates after scoring his side's second goal during the group E match between Brazil and Costa Rica at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the St. Petersburg Stadium in St. Petersburg, Russia, Friday, June 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky)
By JEROME PUGMIRE, AP Sports Writer
ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) — Neymar is hurting, probably physically and almost for sure emotionally.
The Brazil striker, the face of the team at the World Cup and the one carrying the hopes of the nation on his shoulders, came into the tournament with a foot injury. And after a dramatic outburst late in the 2-0 victory over Costa Rica on Friday, he dropped to his knees and cried when the referee blew the final whistle.
Neymar then lashed out on Instagram.
“Not everybody knows what I went through to get here. Even parrots can talk, but to actually do it… few can!!” Neymar wrote alongside a picture of himself looking toward the sky.
“The tears were of joy, success, heart, desire to win. Nothing was ever easy in my life, it wouldn’t be any different now, right!! The dream lives on. No, not the dream, the GOAL!”
Neymar is one of the best players in the world, and that status has made him a target for opposing defenses.
In Brazil’s opening match against Switzerland, a 1-1 draw, Neymar was fouled 10 times. In the next match against Costa Rica, he complained to the referee frequently about not getting calls in his favor. Up next will be Serbia on Wednesday.
As time was winding down in Friday’s match against Costa Rica, and with the score still 0-0, Neymar started to show his emotions. He first flopped to the ground in front of goal, hoping to draw a penalty. He did, briefly, but video review showed the Paris Saint-Germain dived.
He was then handed a yellow card for angrily punching the ball, his frustration obvious to all watching.
Neymar came into this tournament after needing surgery on a broken toe in his right foot, an injury he picked up in late February. He also had a scare in training on Tuesday, limping off with an apparent right ankle injury.
He left the last tournament, at home in Brazil four years ago, with a back injury. That ruled him out of Brazil’s semifinal match against Germany, a game that ended in a humiliating 7-1 loss.
Neymar’s ire at this year’s tournament has even been turned on his own teammates.
Brazil defender Thiago Silva said Neymar insulted him during the game against Costa Rica. Neymar apparently was angry with Silva for giving the ball back to Costa Rica in the 83rd minute because Neymar considered the Costa Ricans to be time wasting.
“When I gave the ball back (to Costa Rica) he insulted me,” Silva said in comments reported by globo.com.
“Theoretically he was right, because they stalled a lot. But it wasn’t going to be that ball that was going to make us win. I was very sad about that insult.”
Silva and Neymar are club teammates at Paris Saint-Germain, where Silva is long-standing captain. Neymar joined last year from Barcelona for a world record fee of 222 million euros ($260 million).
“I see him as a younger brother,” said Silva, who has made 73 appearances for Brazil. “I try to look after him.”
Despite the on-field spat, Brazil recovered against Costa Rica with Philippe Coutinho scoring in the first minute of injury time and Neymar adding another six minutes later. It was Neymar’s first goal of the tournament and 56th overall for Brazil, putting him third behind Pele (77) and Ronaldo (62).
It was followed by tears.
“He needed some relief. He took a heavy load off his back,” Silva said. “Crying is a good thing.”
AP Sports Writer Tales Azzoni in Sochi contributed to this report.
More AP World Cup coverage: www.apnews.com/tag/WorldCup
Jerome Pugmire on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jeromepugmire