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Ronaldo reckons referees need to do a better job of protecting Neymar

“When people repeatedly hit me I would feel a sense of unfairness. Criticism is nonsense.”

Image: SAEED KHAN

NEYMAR HAS FACED criticism for his theatrics during Brazil’s World Cup 2018 campaign, but fellow countryman Ronaldo believes the Paris Saint-Germain forward is not getting enough protection from referees.

As a talismanic presence for the Selecao, the 26-year-old has been singled out by opponents for rough treatment.

With Neymar having only returned from a broken metatarsal on the eve of international duty in Russia, his fitness has been put to the test by Switzerland, Costa Rica, Serbia and Mexico.

He has been accused of taking his reaction to being targeted too far, but he is also one of the most fouled players at the tournament and Ronaldo believes match officials are letting too much go.

The 2002 World Cup winner told reporters ahead of Brazil’s quarter-final clash with Belgium on Friday: “There are many ways to see football and interpret it. I am against all these opinions on Neymar acting.

“He is an intelligent player in his movement and on how to defend himself from being tackled. I don’t think referees have been protecting him enough. When people repeatedly hit me I would feel a sense of unfairness. Criticism is nonsense.”

Neymar has already been backed by those around him in the Brazil side to continue ignoring his detractors and those who feel the best way to contain him is to kick him.

Thiago Silva said of a club and international team-mate after seeing the superstar forward find the target in a 2-0 victory over Mexico in the last 16: “This is normal because [Neymar] has many qualities. The players who defend against him make fouls because it’s always hard to defend Neymar and take the ball without fouling him.”

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