Brazil Gear Up For Belgium Quarter-Final Clash…. As Legend Rivaldo Dismisses Criticism Of Talisman Neymar As ‘Nonsense’

Neymar performs shoulder presses with a Technogtm barbell during a Brazil training session

Brazil geared up for their clash against Belgium with a weights session as Tite’s squad put the finishing touches to their preparations ahead of Friday’s quarter-final.

The Selecao squad trained in a gym at their Kazan base using Technogym equipment to execute a serious of strength and conditioning exercises.

Neymar was pictured performing shoulder presses and deadlifts with a barbell while Thiago Silva and Philippe Coutinho worked out on a bench using dumbells.

Taison is put through his paces on the leg press as he bids to force his way into the starting XI

Philippe Coutinho was another star taking part in the workout using Technogym dumbells

Earlier the squad had been greeted by hundreds of supporters when they touched down in Kazan as Neymar took photos of the welcome and declared: ‘This is Brazil’.

The Paris Saint-Germain superstar has garnered widespread criticism for an incident during Brazil’s 2-0 last-16 victory over Mexico, in which he greatly exaggerate a stamp from Miguel Layun in a bid to get his opponent sent off.

Neymar has been slated for diving throughout the tournament and new data, collated by Swiss broadcaster RTS, revealed the 26-year-old has spent an astonishing 14 minutes on the turf in just four matches so far.

But Brazil legend Rivaldo, speaking as a Betfair ambassador, believes the criticism of Neymar is unfair and insists everyone is focussing too much on the forward.

‘There has been so much debate about Neymar simulating fouls or wasting time on the floor, but I think that in a competition like this – with VAR – we shouldn’t be paying too much attention to this,’ Rivaldo said.

‘Perhaps we should be talking about the officials?,’ he added. ‘I’ve seen many referee mistakes during the World Cup, lots of stuff happening that is not being commented on, but still all the focus is on Neymar.’

Rivaldo did suggest that Neymar’s antics mean he is in danger of provoking harsher treatment from opponents who are targeting Brazil’s talisman.

‘If the defenders manage to stop Neymar without fouling him then he cannot stay on the floor for too long,’ Rivaldo, a 2002 World Cup winner, said. ‘But when other players start provoking him he must do his part, which is normal.’

He added: ‘All this nonsense means other players attempt to provoke him even more, and he must be intelligent in these moments.

‘Even referees could be influenced by this controversy and punish Neymar unfairly, but he must try to relax and I believe manager Tite will try to calm him down, telling him to just play his game as always.’

Coach Tite has continued his policy of rotating the captain’s armband for the Belgium game with Miranda set to be Brazil’s 16th skipper in the last 25 matches.

While Tite has come in for criticism for his policy, it means that all but one of the expected starting XI against Belgium will have captained Brazil from the start before.

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