SAMARA • After another controversial match in which he was accused of diving and feigning injury, Brazil star forward Neymar insisted the hum of talk around his behaviour was just opponents trying to put him off his game.
Juan Carlos Osorio, without mentioning Neymar by name, had made clear he felt his antics and "fake fouls" had been responsible for Mexico losing their rhythm in their 2-0 loss to Brazil on Monday .
The Mexico coach said: "I think it's a shame for football. We wasted a lot of time because of one player. We stopped too often. I think this is a very negative example for the world of football and all the children who are following this game.
"This is a strong sport, a man's sport and I think there shouldn't be so much acting."
The incident that most riled him came midway through the second half as Neymar tangled with Miguel Layun, who did tread on his ankle, although with nothing like the force he made out to be.
Neymar writhed and rolled around, and convulsed as if he had received an electric shock. His exaggerated reaction suggested a repeat of the play-acting that marred his play in the group phase as social media platforms exploded with memes of the 26-year-old.
Neymar leads all players in Russia in:
• Shots on target: 12
• Chances created: 16
• Most dribbles attempted: 35
• Fouls suffered: 23 (breakdown as below)
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Former Manchester United star Eric Cantona devoted several social media posts to ridiculing him in recent days.
Among the latest, he dubbed a brand of luggage on wheels, 'Neymar', because "you barely touch it and it turns round and round for hours".
Neymar, however, has undoubtedly been at the end of some tough tackling at this World Cup. He suffered 23 fouls in Brazil's four games, more than anyone else in the tournament.
And after his man-of-the-match performance, he shrugged off all the criticism.
"I think it's more an attempt to undermine me than anything else," he said. "I don't much care for criticism, not even for praise because this can influence in a way the athlete's attitude."
The world's most expensive footballer was, however, commended by Brazil captain Thiago Silva after scoring one goal and creating another to send Brazil into a quarter-final showdown with Belgium.
"It's magnificent how he's playing, especially after three-and-a-half months on the sidelines," the defender said of his Paris Saint-Germain team-mate, who has long been linked with a move to European champions Real Madrid.
"It's very difficult to come back the way he's done."
Real on Monday denied Spanish TV channel TVE's report that they had submitted a world-record €310 million (S$493 million) bid for the player who left Barcelona last year for €222 million.
THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS