Soccer-Scolari heaps praise on Neymar, home fans after comeback


By Todd Benson and Kieran Murray

SAO PAULO, June 12 (Reuters) - Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari paid tribute to forward Neymar after the 22-year-old scored twice in a come-from-behind victory against Croatia in the World Cup opening game on Thursday.

"The only thing we want is that Neymar is happy playing ball. He's a special player," Scolari told reporters after the 3-1 win gave Brazil a great start in their bid for a record-extending sixth World Cup title.

Brazil fell behind after 11 minutes through Marcelo's own goal but Neymar led the comeback, scoring with a left-footed shot from outside the area and then with a controversial penalty.

The Barcelona striker is under intense pressure as Brazilian fans expect their team to deliver the country's first World Cup title on home soil. He certainly delivered on Thursday and was named man of the match for his performance.

"He doesn't need all of you (the media) to demand that he become the best player in the world. His responsibility is to play for Brazil, and that's what he did today," Scolari said.

Neymar said the victory was "more than I ever dreamed or imagined. The merit belongs to the team as a whole, which remained cool and calm to come from behind and win."

Scolari also heaped praise on the Brazil supporters in the 62,103 crowd in Sao Paulo, a city with notoriously fickle fans who booed the team in their final warmup match for the World Cup.

"Our players were excellent, they showed determination to be able to come from behind. They were fantastic," Scolari said.

"But who really deserves praise are the fans. It was wonderful, the support we received here in Sao Paulo. If there's still any notion out there Sao Paulo doesn't root for the national team effusively enough, that was put to rest today." (Reporting by Todd Benson and Kieran Murray; Editing by Ken Ferris)

What to Read Next