Brazil’s pin-up boy Neymar has admitted that he and his team-mates were made to suffer both emotionally and physically during their enthralling last-16 penalty shoot-out victory against Chile.
The host nation booked their place in the quarter-finals, where they will meet an impressive Colombian side, via a dramatic 3-2 penalty shoot-out win over their South American rivals after a tense 120 minutes of play ended with the sides locked at 1-1.
Barcelona star Neymar scored the fifth, and what turned out to be the decisive, penalty for his country, displaying once again his incredible ability to handle the immense pressure on his considerably young shoulders. The 22-year-old, who looked vacant as he sat on the pitch alongside his sobbing team-mates after the intense match, said how he had gone through emotional torment during the tie.
"We really suffered. It was pure emotion," he told Sky Sports.
"My tears after the game were of happiness.
"We know that it was not one of our best matches but the desire to win and get through to the next round that we showed was huge. It was the most I have ever suffered in football.
"Today I had everything. I took a knock, I had cramp. Now all I want to do is rest."
Despite the pressure on him as a result of the expectations of the home fans, Neymar insisted that he played without fear in Belo Horizonte and he showed it when he coolly converted probably the most important penalty he will ever take.
"I felt no fear. Fear removes the desire to win. We knew that we would be playing a great team, but there was no fear," he added.
Neymar stepped up to take his winning penalty knowing that missing would give Chile a chance to win with their final spot-kick, but he sent his new Barcelona team-mate Claudio Bravo the wrong way before Gonzalo Jara struck his effort against the post.
It was truly inspirational to see how much it meant to all the Brazil players and fans after the match, with the majority of them cuddling and crying on the pitch for a good while as they digested what had just happened.
Julio Cesar, who made a crucial mistake in South Africa 2010 that he said had haunted him since, was overcome with emotion after being the hero for his side and saving two of Chile’s penalties, as well as some great stops during open play.
Speaking after the game, Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari praised his star man Neymar for his mental strength and leader-like characteristics.
"He is 22 but he plays as if he were 35. He handles the pressure naturally. He is so strong mentally and you could see even when we was 17 or 18 that he was ready," said Scolari.
"He just enjoys playing football. He took that penalty as though he were having a kick-about at home in Santos."
Neymar suffered a knock early on in the tie that has left him nursing a slight injury but his boss is hopeful it will not be enough to cause him to miss the quarter-final against Colombia in Fortaleza on Friday.
"We need to evaluate it but we should have three, four or five days to try and make sure he can play the next game," added Scolari.
Neymar is by far the most important player and character in this Brazil side and it will be absolutely vital that he remains fit for their World Cup hopes to remain alive.
Before their penalty shoot-out the forward was shown talking to his team-mates and psyching them up for what was to come, he is a leader and by the looks of it, an important person to have around in the dressing room as well as on the pitch.
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