Football

Psychologist called in to help nervous Brazil

Brazil summon a psychologist amid reports the players are on the verge of a mental breakdown

QUARTER-FINAL

BRAZIL v COLOMBIA

(Saturday, 4am, SingTel mio TV Ch 141 & 
StarHub TV Ch 223)

Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari has summoned the team psychologist for an extra session with players, after crushing World Cup pressure left some of them in tears, a report said this morning (Singapore time).

Sports psychologist Regina Brandao made an "urgent" and unscheduled visit to their training camp on Tuesday, ahead of Saturday morning's (Singapore time) quarter-final with Colombia.

The visit came after panicky Brazil nearly crashed out against Chile before squeezing through on penalties, with Neymar, goalkeeper Julio Cesar, David Luiz and captain Thiago Silva all seen crying.

Scolari called Brandao on Monday and, on Tuesday, she held a meeting with all the players and the technical team.

She did not speak individually with players. The psychologist, who has worked with Scolari for more than 20 years, did not comment on whether the meeting was called urgently.

"The visit formed part of our initial planning. I have classes and I couldn't be here for long," Brandao told CBF TV.

"I speak constantly with the players. We speak to each other on WhatsApp, we speak on the phone, we communicate by e-mail."

The stark emotions of Brazil's players have caused much debate and concern over whether they are psychologically equipped to deliver a home World Cup win.

Star forward Neymar cried during the national anthem at the tournament-opener against Croatia, and tears have never been far away since.

"They cry during the national anthem, they cry at the end of extra time, they cry before and after the penalties," said technical director Carlos Alberto Parreira.

Brazilian legend Zico said a lack of self-control could damage Brazil's chances on the pitch.

"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," he said.

Carlos Alberto, Brazil's World Cup captain in 1970, said the Selecao should save their tears until after they have won the final in Rio de Janeiro on July 13.

"The team are crying when they're singing the anthem, when they get hurt, when they shoot penalties! Come on... Stop crying! Enough!" he said.

"They say it's the pressure from playing at home. But they should have been prepared for this. They knew they would go through this. Where's the psychologist?

"This shows the team are not 100 per cent ready to face a World Cup. When you are prepared to win, everything happens automatically.

"When you're not prepared, you cry when the result is not positive. This is what's happening now."

EMOTIONAL

Scolari has stressed that Brazil are a young team, while goalkeeper Cesar, who is 34, said he had every right to show his emotions.

"I never hide that I am an emotional person. This match proves that if you have a dream, you must chase it," he said after the shootout win over Chile.

Brazil are under intense pressure to breathe life into their World Cup campaign and produce a performance worthy of champions, when they face Colombia and their free-scoring midfielder James Rodriguez in Saturday morning's quarter-final.

After their laboured win over Chile in a penalty shootout in the Round of 16, the Brazilians have been berated by their fans and former players.

"The fact is that we are lacking a proper game plan," Zico wrote in a column for British newspaper The Guardian.

"There is no more build-up from the back," he complained, saying that against Chile, the Brazilians "once again resorted to long balls to Neymar".

Brazil coach Scolari has taken such criticism in his stride.

"It's normal that they (the fans and the media) are demanding," he said.

"We're facing up to our difficulties and we'll see if we can improve our balance in the next game from start to finish, and not have the ups and downs that we had in the previous games."

Striker Neymar, scorer of four of Brazil's eight World Cup goals, is nursing a thigh injury picked up against the Chileans but looks certain to start.

Scolari's biggest selection headache is in midfield, where Luiz Gustavo is suspended after being booked against Chile. Ramires is his most likely replacement.

In stark contrast to the angst-ridden Brazilians, the Colombians seem to be enjoying every minute of their best-ever World Cup campaign.

They have won all four matches, scoring 11 goals in the process and conceding just two.

In Rodriguez, they have produced one of the revelations of the competition. He has scored five, including a contender for goal of the tournament in the 2-0 defeat of Uruguay in the last round.

"There's no point in just stopping James. We need to stop the whole Colombian team," Scolari said.

"They're a team that play easily, nice football, they are calm and organised."

History is firmly on Brazil's side. In their 25 previous meetings, Colombia have won just twice and the last time was 23 years ago, before the baby-faced Rodriguez was even born. Brazil's 15 victories include a 9-0 rout at the 1957 Copa America, a 6-2 drubbing in Rio de Janeiro in 1969 and a crushing 6-0 win in the same city in 1977.

For every goal that Colombia have scored against the Brazilians, Brazil have scored five.

But their last four encounters have ended in draws, the hosts look vulnerable and Brazil have bowed out at this stage at the last two World Cups.

The five-time champions have not lost a competitive match on home soil since 1975, when Peru beat them 3-1 in the Copa America.

That remarkable record will be put to the test in Fortaleza's Castelao Arena on Saturday morning as perhaps never before. - Wire Services.


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.

— Brazil legend Zico

World Cup