Brazil head coach Tite admitted Neymar has not been at his best during the World Cup but defended the star’s performances, saying he has been “participating collectively”.
The 26-year-old was widely criticised for his theatrical reaction when he claimed that Mexico’s Miguel Layun stood on his ankle in Brazil’s 2-0 last-16 victory, but Tite previously said he supported Neymar’s view of the incident.
He reiterated his stance in blunt terms ahead of Brazil’s quarter-final against Belgium and sung Neymar’s praises for the less-talked-about qualities he brings to the Selecao.
“I’ve already spoken about Neymar and I’ve been very specific about it, about what happened,” Tite told reporters ahead of Friday’s clash. “You should look at the videos, all you have to do is look at images.
“What makes me happy is not him at his best – less than that. [He is] not just dribbling, there are actions, defensive transitions.
“If you look, you see how much he’s been participating collectively, taking up the ball, taking up space. Sometimes in counters, I don’t always want them to counter like that, but there’s teamwork.”
Neymar won his race to be fit in time to make Tite’s final squad for Russia after suffering a fractured metatarsal while playing for French champions Paris Saint-Germain in February, and he has scored two of Brazil’s seven goals at the tournament so far.
Tite indicated that he was impressed by how quickly the former Barcelona star had recovered, saying: “With Neymar you don’t have to be skilled to know he will develop and we were following his work.
“The medical team know the price he paid to come to this point, also the physician. They know what he had to do to get here, in a sequence of matches.
“I knew, time allows you that [recovery]. It was a natural situation, he was faster than expected because he’s a great player, he resumed his work quickly.”