Neymar: ‘Diva’ talk is an attempt to undermine me

Neymar claimed his critics are trying to “undermine” him after he sizzled in the baking Samara heat to send Brazil into the quarter-finals of the World Cup.

Brazil’s 2-0 victory over Mexico was the Neymar show as the 26-year-old scored the first – his 57th international goal in 89 appearances – before setting up the second for substitute Roberto Firmino late in the match.

But Neymar’s behaviour came under scrutiny again after he was previously accused of play-acting in Russia.

Mexico substitute Miguel Layun trod on Neymar’s ankle in the 73rd minute, escaping a possible red card, but Neymar’s reaction was exaggerated in the extreme as he writhed around on the floor.

But when asked in his post-match press conference if claims that he is a diva were unfair, Neymar said: “Look, I think it’s more of an attempt to undermine me than anything else.

“I don’t care much for criticism, not even from the press because in a way this can influence athletes.

“The last two matches I didn’t talk to the press because there’s so many people talking.

“I just want to play and I help my team-mates, I have to help my team and that’s what I am here for, nothing else.

“I am here to win and I hope I can improve.”

Although Brazil were unbeaten in the group stage and topped their section, Neymar looked short of his best as he worked his way back to full fitness.

Neymar sprained his ankle and fractured his fifth metatarsal playing for Paris St Germain in February and only returned to action just ahead of the World Cup.

But he was back to his best despite 35 degrees Celsius temperatures at the Samara Arena, as Brazil overtook Germany as the World Cup’s highest scorers.

“I knew that I was going to need some time to get back to my normal pace, but today I feel much better,” Neymar said after scoring his second goal of the 2018 World Cup.

“I am really happy for the match, not only individually but also for the whole team.

“I congratulate them on their efforts and we are improving all the time.”

Although he refused to criticise Neymar directly, Mexico manager Juan Carlos Osorio was unimpressed with the behaviour of the Brazil players and blamed their theatrics for halting his side’s rhythm.

“I think we played quite well but unfortunately – and it’s a shame for football – that we wasted a lot of time because of one single player,” Osorio said.

“I think we lost our style in the second half due to the refereeing, every time he stopped the game.

“There was too much stoppage and my players got more and more tired.”

On the Layun incident, Osorio said: “There was very little contact.

“But there was a four-minute stoppage and this is a very negative example for the world of football and for all the children who are following the game.

“This should be a strong sport, it’s a men’s sport. There shouldn’t be so much acting.

Neymar was asked about Osorio’s comments but the Brazil manager Tite, who was sitting beside him, interrupted to say he would answer the question.

“Is that a loser whining?” Tite said.

“The hierarchy stands, the coach talks to the coach, the athlete talks to the athlete.”

On the Layun incident, he added: “I saw what happened and you can look at the video and say nothing. Just analyse the image (of foul play).”