Goalkeeping great Peter Schmeichel has praised a Brazil team galvanized by the tactics of manager Tite but singled out star Neymar as a “problem child” and suggested a spell on the sidelines could benefit the team.
Brazil booked their place in the World Cup 2018 knockout stages with a 2-0 victory over Serbia at Spartak Stadium, courtesy of goals from Paulinho and captain Thiago Silva to set up a last 16 clash with Mexico in Samara.
RT special World Cup host Schmeichel believes that the win and qualification to the latter stages of the tournament never looked in danger, thanks to a "solid" Brazil starting line.
“Comfortable, very solid today, it was a straightforward two-nil win,” Schmeichel said.
“Serbia didn’t have what it took today to put any kind of pressure on Brazil and in fact I think a lot of the Serbian players looked frustrated. Mitrovic up front - he was acting out all the time. He was getting booked as well.”
Schmeichel, who won the 1992 European Championships between the sticks with Denmark, lavished praise on manager Tite for transforming Brazil into a compact unit able to build attacks from defense, rather than previous incarnations reliant on flair players.
“If people think this is the Brazil of old, with all the flair and a lot of characters who do things that you never see, or you never see footballers do, then don’t watch Brazil, that’s not the team they are any more - very very solid, they are difficult to break down,” Schmeichel said.
“[Tite’s] brought Paulinho back, he sits there in that gap in front of the back four - he did score the goal today, it was one of the first times I’ve actually seen him break into the other half.”
Despite praising some of their defensive players, it was Brazil’s standout attacking player who was singled out for criticism from the Dane. Schmeichel branded Neymar the “problem child” of the team, whose persistent trickery he believed negatively affected the team.
“They still have their little problem child Neymar, who is the most expensive player in the world, an unbelievable amount of money was paid to him by PSG and he’s still trying to impress everyone with his skills, and still nothing is really happening for Neymar, he had a couple of chances today that he missed."
“It’s also in the actual game where I think he becomes the problem. It’s like the other players they think the game is designed to whenever they have the ball, they find Neymar and he will do something.
“They do find Neymar - that bit is ok. But he won’t do something. It’s not happening for him. And I think, either he needs a little break - he might not even be completely fit, because he’s always injured going into this tournament but his current standard and his current level, it might not be a bad idea to give him a bit of a break.
“Once you give a player like that a bit of thinking time, sat on the bench watching the other guys, he might come on and he might be a player that is more valuable to the team.”