Immediately after the final whistle of Brazil’s dramatic win over Costa Rica on Friday, Neymar sunk to his knees. And 100 minutes of repressed emotion came pouring out of his body.
The Brazilian superstar broke down, crying, his hands over his face, his shoulders and torso trembling, heaving slightly at irregular intervals. Then he transitioned to a seated position, his head still bowed, staring straight at the ground.
His hands were over his face for a full 40 seconds. After 45 seconds, Brazilian teammates came over to console him – and to celebrate a massive victory. They crouched over him, patting him on the back.
Why was Neymar crying?
His tears were tears of relief. They were, surely, a product of the immense pressure he is under.
Through 90 minutes of Brazil’s second game at the 2018 World Cup, Neymar and his teammates had come up short. He had been hacked relentlessly. He had flopped to win a penalty on Friday, only to have it overturned by VAR.
And he knew all too well what it felt like to fail under pressure. He had cracked in 2014, literally, a back injury ruling him out of the now-infamous semifinal against Germany. His teammates had collapsed without him with the weight of a nation on their backs.
So Neymar knew all too well the heartache another failure in Russia would cause. He was well aware of the intense criticism he and they would have been in for if the result held.
But it didn’t. Philippe Coutinho scored a 91st minute winner. Neymar then added a second in the 97th minute to seal the deal.
Neymar’s late goal puts him past Romario in sole possession of 3rd all-time on Brazil’s top scorers list with 56 goals.
He now only trails Pelé (77) and Ronaldo (62). pic.twitter.com/RaeowO2Oom
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 22, 2018
The relief was evident then, toward the end of his celebrations, in an embrace with Coutinho. It had been evident minutes earlier, the release of pressure loosening the shackles on his creativity. He flicked a so-called “rainbow” over the head of a Costa Rican defender:
And then he let all his emotion spill out when the game was finally over.
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