Friday, Oct 24, 2014

Nervous 20s: Young Brazil find going tough in crunch games

Luiz Felipe Scolari pacifies an emotional Neymar during their match against Chile. Brazil won the match on penalties. (Source: AP) Luiz Felipe Scolari pacifies an emotional Neymar during their match against Chile. Brazil won the match on penalties. (Source: AP)
Associated Press | Teresopolis | Posted: July 2, 2014 1:45 am | Updated: July 2, 2014 10:08 am

Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari admits that a lack of experience is hurting Brazil’s young squad at the World Cup. The coach is also blaming some of the team’s struggles, which include a disappointing performance that nearly led to its elimination by Chile in the second round, on the pressure of needing to succeed in front of the home fans.

Brazil has only six players with experience of past World Cups. Some of its top stars, including Neymar, are playing on football’s biggest stage for the first time. “Of course it’s a concern, we have a young team,” Scolari said after Brazil’s win over Chile in a penalty shootout.

“Even the most experienced players will feel the pressure of a World Cup. Everybody feels it. If you say that you don’t feel it, you are lying. It’s a different situation emotionally, it’s never simple. We have a lot of young players, and little by little they will gain more of this experience.”

The veteran coach used the example of young midfielder Willian, who is one of the team’s best penalty takers in training but sent his shot wide in Saturday’s shootout against Chile in Belo Horizonte.

“We will be gaining more experience in each match we play,” Scolari said. “Hopefully, in the next matches we will be making fewer mistakes because of this lack of experience. We can’t lose anymore.”

Brazil will play South American rival Colombia in the quarterfinals Friday in the northeastern city of Fortaleza. Scolari said Brazil’s disappointing second-half performance against Chile can be blamed on the pressure felt by the players, who started feeling more and more anxious as the match neared its end and elimination became a possibility.

Several Brazilian players were crying after the match was over, including Neymar and captain Thiago Silva. Goalkeeper Julio Cesar, who made two penalty saves, had watery eyes even before the shootout started. Only five players from this year’s team were in the 2010 World Cup — Cesar, Silva, Dani Alves, Maicon and Ramires. Fred didn’t make it to South Africa but was in the squad for the 2006 tournament in Germany.

Scolari brought a group of psychologists to work with the players when the team began its World Cup preparations more than a month ago, with each player undergoing individual sessions. “We’ve been getting prepared emotionally since we got here,” Brazil defensive midfielder Fernandinho said.

Experienced players

“The talks we had with the psychologists were very good, but I think that now it’s up to the players. We can talk among ourselves to try to change this. Everybody knows what we need to do.” Scolari had previously said he didn’t think his squad lacked the experience needed for the World Cup. When he announced his squad, he continued…

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