Playing host to the World Cup is a tough assignment, especially in a soccer-mad country like Brazil. There's the pressure of performing well in front of your fellow countrymen and in the case of the Seleção, the pressure of winning the whole entire thing.
Brazil strolled through the group stage comfortably, winning Group A with two wins and a draw. In the Round of 16, however, its World Cup dreams were almost ended by Chile; but after a nail-biting round of penalty kicks, Brazil prevailed. Now the team faces another tough match-up on Friday in Colombia with a berth in the semifinal on the line.
The pressure on Neymar and company has only increased as the tournament as gone on and Brazil has continued to advance. That pressure may be getting to some of Luiz Felipe Scolari's players, which is why he's brought in a psychologist to help his charges deal with the stress.
According to Brazilian newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo, sports psychologist Regina Brandão, who has worked with Scolari since the late 1990s, made an unscheduled and "urgent" visit to the team's camp on Tuesday.
“I had never done anything like it before and I am quite enjoying it,” [Neymar] said, according to AFP.
“It is not only us, in football, who are surrounded by emotion every day and need psychologists. I think it could do every person good, to make one more relaxed."
Brandão has been tasked before to draw up psychological profiles of players to aid Scolari in selecting his rosters. She asks them to fill out a series of questionnaires. In it they use a sliding scale to determine how much certain events would affect them.
Her discoveries have been interesing. From a December New York Times story:
For example, Brandão’s analysis indicated that Brazilian players and Portuguese players, who share a common language and are often linked culturally, handle most situations in opposite ways. Portuguese players generally were more neutral with their emotions, Brandão said, finding positive motivation in events that Brazilians typically said were clearly negative, such as being given a yellow card.
Brazilians, on the other hand, were more extreme with their emotions and more prone to distraction related to external issues. For instance, Brandão’s analysis found that Scolari needed to be more sensitive to players nearing the end of the contracts with their club teams; they might be concerned about their professional future.
Brazil, by the way, is tied with Uruguay and Mexico with the most yellow cards in the tournament with eight.
Six of the 19 World Cup hosts have gone on to win the tournament. Brazil is looking for its sixth title and to become the first host to win since France in 1998. The players understand the pressure and Scolari has tried to help his team cope with the weight on its shoulders. Still, he knows there can only be one outcome.
“We are the hosts,” Scolari told the Times, “so that means that the minimum we have to do — the minimum — is win.”
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