Thiago Silva: Neymar can shine
The world's attention will be on Neymar this summer as the symbolic face of the host nation at the World Cup in Brazil, but Selecao captain Thiago Silva says his teammate can handle the pressure.
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Neymar has refrained from doing interviews while on duty with the national team, but Silva said in an interview with ESPN Brazil that the Barcelona man does not need protecting.
Asked if Brazil needs to keep Neymar away from the spotlight for Brazil to be successful, Silva said, "I wouldn't say to protect him from criticism. Protection is too strong a word.
"It makes him look stupid, and this is all that Neymar is not. He is smart, adored by everybody, he speaks well, and knows how to take care of himself."
Neymar scored a hat trick in Brazil's most recent friendly in South Africa in March, but he notably did not talk to the media during the trip. Allegations surrounding Neymar's transfer to Barcelona had arisen, and reports said Neymar's high-profile relationship with actress Bruna Marquezine had just ended weeks before.
Silva said both events played a factor in keeping Neymar away from reporters.
"Restraining him in that particular occasion was a good measure since there were some people more interested in his private life," Silva said. "We know how annoying it is to keep answering the same thing over and over.
"Rodrigo [Paiva, Brazil's communications director] and the staff did well in avoiding that kind of contact in that particular moment. All the questions would have been about Bruna and his transferring to Barcelona."
On the pitch with Brazil or Paris Saint-Germain, Silva is known for keeping his emotions in check, but he said relations with his teammates are not always so cordial.
"It is not a good attitude and I always remember that when I raise my arms and yell," Silva said. "I get sad because it is something that I do not approve of or it is not my style.
"When I make gestures asking a colleague to mark an opposition player, people can take it wrong. So I'd rather be cool, then. I can even yell something, but not act as clumsy. One day, there was a funny situation. I was upset with Marquinhos [at PSG] and I got on him really hard, but I bet nobody noticed it."
Silva said it has sometimes been difficult to contain his excitement to play the World Cup in his home country.
"It has not been easy," he said. "You think about the World Cup almost every day. At night, when I lay down on my bed, I think how things would be if we won, how the entire country would go crazy.
"Soccer is part of the Brazilian culture, it is in our blood. So can you picture the World Cup taking place in Brazil? If the Brazilian fans are highly anxious, you have an idea how it is for us, too."
Brazil will face Spain in the round of 16 if one team wins their group and the others are runners-up, meaning the hosts could go up against Brazilian-born Diego Costa, who chose to play for Spain. But Silva said he couldn't judge Costa on his decision.
"These are very particular choices that each person makes," Silva said. "Speaking for myself, I don't know if I would do that and I cannot say that I wouldn't do it because I am not going through the same things he is going through.
"I think it will be cool for him to participate in a World Cup. I am not criticising him."