Brazilian great Ronaldo has astoundingly defended compatriot Neymar for his perceived play-acting at the World Cup and instead criticized the tournament's referees for failing to protect the striker.
Neymar has been mercilessly trolled for rolling around on the floor during games, with a myriad memes, gifs and videos making fun of the striker's antics, but Ronaldo, a World Cup winner in 2002 with Brazil, said referees are at fault.
“The criticism is nonsense,” the former Barcelona, Inter Milan and Real Madrid legend told reporters Wednesday, AP reports. “I am against all these opinions you mentioned. I don’t think referees have been protecting him enough.”
PSG forward Neymar scored Brazil's opener before turning provider for Roberto Firmino in their 2-1 last 16 win over Mexico on Monday, but the game was marked out for Neymar's diving, in particular his reaction to Miguel Layun's boot touching his lower leg.
His behaviour drew scathing criticism from fans and fellow pros alike, including 1986 World Cup golden boot winner Gary Lineker, who tweeted: "Neymar has the lowest pain threshold of any player in World Cups since Opta stats began" but did also admit he was a "stunningly good footballer".
Brazil play Belgium next in Kazan Arena with a place in the semi-finals up for grabs.