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Rediff.com  » Sports » World Cup chit-chat: Psychologists roped in to help pressurised Brazil squad?

World Cup chit-chat: Psychologists roped in to help pressurised Brazil squad?

Last updated on: July 04, 2014 11:11 IST

World Cup chit-chat: Psychologists roped in to help pressurised Brazil squad?

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Brazil play Colombia in Fortaleza in Friday's afternoon kick-off and, with the weight of expectation upon them, there are concerns about whether a team that have failed to sparkle so far can cope with the pressure.

Those fears grew this week when news surfaced that a psychologist went to visit the squad at their training ground, but coach Luiz Felipe Scolari responded angrily to questions about Brazil's emotional fragility.

"For God's sake, please stop thinking that so and so goes there only for specific reasons. That's all wrong," Scolari told a news conference, cutting off the reporter asking the question.

"It's all scheduled, organised. She will go there again Sunday or Monday. She has participated in a very cool way," he added.

"It's a broad conversation, open, calm, together with the players."

The sight of players breaking down in tears after their nerve-jangling win on penalties against Chile in the last game has not instilled confidence in Brazil's soccer-mad public, but news that the talented forward Neymar is fit certainly helps.

The striker said he had no lingering pain from the knee and thigh injuries he suffered in the bruising encounter with Chile.

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Image: Thiago Silva, Luiz Gustavo, Ramires, Dani Alves, Jo, Marcelo, Hulk, Willian and Neymar of Brazil look on during a penalty shootout against Chile
Photographs: Paul Gilham/Getty Images

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'James mania' sweeping Columbia

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Colombia may not have the footballing pedigree of their opponents, but their free-flowing style and carefree attitude has made them many people's favourites to overcome hosts Brazil on Friday.

In James Rodriguez, their 22-year-old attacking midfielder, they have arguably the tournament's best player so far who has scored five goals, one more than Neymar, Argentina's Lionel Messi and Germany's Thomas Mueller.

"James-mania" is sweeping Colombia, and is especially evident in the city of Ibague, where he first made waves as a precocious talent.

"He's our idol, our pride," said Eliceo Osorio, a 50-year-old judge standing outside Ibague's city hall, draped with a banner featuring a jubilant Rodriguez.

"We always believed he was better than Falcao," Osorio said, swelling with pride, referring to Colombia's leading striker Radamel Falcao, forced out of the World Cup due to injury.

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Image: James Rodriguez of Colombia
Photographs: Warren Little/Getty Images

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Don't blame Messi if Argentina fail, says Maradona

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Argentina are playing far below their best, are over-reliant on Lionel Messi and must improve if they are to beat Belgium in their World Cup quarter-finals, according to Diego Maradona.

"We still haven't got started," Maradona, who won the 1986 World Cup with Argentina, said in a withering analysis of the team's performances so far at the tournament in Brazil.

"They need to get it into their heads that we can't be 'Sporting Messi'. Maybe he can score a great goal ... but if it doesn't come off for the kid, we can't jump on him tomorrow as if he's guilty of the Argentine disaster."

Maradona, Argentina's coach at the last World Cup where they went out in the quarter-finals, was speaking on Venezuelan TV after Argentina's defeat of Switzerland this week. His comments were widely reported in Latin American media on Thursday.

He said Argentina's big name team were playing at only 40 percent of their capacity and criticized them for only squeaking past Switzerland 1-0 with a last-gasp goal in extra time.

"Man-for-man, and collectively, Argentina are better. They (the Swiss) may make good watches but they have few footballers," the always controversial Maradona said.

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Image: Diego Maradona (right) talks with Lionel Messi
Photographs: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

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'If they do not improve against Belgium, we're in trouble'

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Argentina, who were to train behind closed doors on Thursday at their camp in Belo Horizonte before flying to Brasilia for Saturday's game versus Belgium, won all three group games before beating the Swiss in the last 16.

Messi has won man-of-the-match in each game, and scored four of Argentina's seven goals. But the wins have all been by one-goal margins and have masked some subdued individual performances by other players expected to make bigger contributions.

"The kid (Messi) is very alone ... The team doesn't have a change of rhythm, movements in its strikers," added Maradona, saying the players lacked a give-it-all attitude.

"I feel something very strong inside, like bitterness, rage, frustration, because Argentina can play much, much better ... The coach has to impose this." If they do not improve against Belgium, "we're in trouble," he said.

Argentina have won the World Cup twice and would dearly love to lift it for a third time on the soil of their great rivals Brazil. Tens of thousands of blue-and-white-clad Argentines have flooded across the border to cheer them on.

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Image: Argentina's Lionel Messi in a team training session
Photographs: Getty Images

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Australia 'keeper Ryan blames himself for Socceroos' exit

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Australia goalkeeper Mat Ryan was on the verge of tears after letting through the goal that dumped the Socceroos out of the World Cup and is no less hard on himself after a few weeks to reflect.

On the last line of an inexperienced Socceroos' defence, the 22-year-old conceded nine goals from three matches and is still tormented by the Memphis Depay strike that gave Netherlands a 3-2 win.

Ryan was slow to pick up midfielder Depay's speculative shot from well outside the box and the lunging keeper managed only to get a hand to it.

That spelt the end of the Socceroos' tournament and the team duly crashed to a 3-0 thrashing at the hands of fellow evictees Spain in their final dead rubber match.

"It's never easy for a goalkeeper to make a mistake and unfortunately in the Netherlands game, the third goal, I was pretty disappointed with my effort," Ryan, who plays for Brugge in Belgium's top flight, said in comments published by News Ltd.

"It was probably the hardest five days of my life yet. It's never good making a mistake, let alone on the world stage in Brazil and at the World Cup, and I felt like I let my country down a little bit.

"Conceding three goals a game at that level isn't good enough. But in saying that there were a couple of saves I made, which was good for the confidence to show at that level I can make a save or two and hopefully in the future I can go away and learn from it."

Named the best keeper in the Belgian Pro League last season, Ryan replaced the long-serving Mark Schwarzer in a youthful Socceroos squad that will be expected to take the lessons from Brazil into the Asian Cup on home soil next year.

Though finishing without a point for the first time in their four World Cup campaigns, Ange Postecoglou-coached Australia won plaudits for their enterprising play, despite being the lowest ranked team at the finals.

"We've still got a lot of hard work in front of us," said Ryan. "We have to put together performances for the full 90 minutes, not just match it for 70.

"But the reception we received from the public was overwhelming and we're so proud to hear such great words being spoken of the team." 

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Image: Mathew Ryan of Australia makes a save during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group B match between Australia and Spain
Photographs: Jeff Gross/Getty Images

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