The relationship between Brazil, especially star Neymar, and their fans remains uneasy ahead of the men's Olympic quarter-final with Colombia Saturday, a rematch of the tie played in the 2014 home World Cup.
Brazil is arguably the most football-crazy country on a football-crazy planet and when things are going well, the players are hailed as gods among mortals. But the extreme also applies when things are not going well.
Barcelona star Neymar, who was rested from the Copa America in preparation for the Games, is yet to score in the tournament, extending his goalless streak for the Selecao to six games and is feeling the heat from fans who have booed him and questioned his lifestyle.
"Off the field, it's my life," ESPN quoted him saying at a news conference. "I'm a 24-year-old guy - why can't I go out to parties? You have to hold me accountable for what I do on the pitch."
Everyone plays badly occasionally but when you play badly while partying, sympathy is in short supply.
"He doesn't have what it takes to be captain," Brazilian great Zico said. "He should only be worrying about his game."
Unfavourable comparisons have been made to Marta, the undisputed star of Brazil's women's team.
But Brazil's men's Olympic football coach Rogerio Micale begged fans to go easy on Neymar.
"Marta and Neymar are two great Brazilian players," he was quoted by the Mirror as telling reporters. "Neymar will one day become the best player in the world and we need to respect him. If we don't respect our best players they might not want to be with us anymore."
The latest bid for Brazil's first Olympic gold medal in football almost came to a premature end in the group stage. In the early part of the final match, they were actually heading out on goals scored before they powered to a 4-0 win over Denmark.
Those were Brazil's first goals of the competition and it will be hoped that sparks them into life for their next tie in Sao Paolo's Corinthians Arena.
When Brazil hosted the 2014 World Cup, they were expected to make a triumphant march to the final. Instead their campaign ended in farce, thrashed 7-1 by Germany in a Belo Horizonte semi-final.
But the thread really started to unravel a match before when Colombian Juan Zuniga kneed Neymar in the back, fracturing a vertebra in his spine and ruling him out of the tournament.
Brazil therefore went into the semi not only without their best player but emotionally distracted as his team-mates endulged in various shows of solidarity right up until kick-off with Germany.
They will hope to progress through their rematch against Colombia with considerably less drama on this occasion.
Sunday, August 21, 2016 - 03:45
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