Van Basten critical of Neymar’s World Cup theatrics

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MOSCOW (AP) — Neymar’s play-acting at the World Cup made him the butt of plenty of jokes, and also earned the Brazil striker some criticism from FIFA technical director Marco van Basten.

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Van Basten, himself one of greatest forwards in the history of the game, said Thursday diving and faking injury is “not a good attitude” and works against Neymar and his team.

“If you are acting too much I think everybody will understand that it’s not going to help you,” the Netherlands great said. “I think he (Neymar) personally should understand his situation.”

Van Basten was asked about Neymar’s theatrics at a briefing with experts appointed by FIFA to analyze tactics and technical trends at the 64-game tournament. One factor they agreed could help explain Neymar’s frustration in Russia: Playmakers face more well-organized defensive lines which are better than ever at denying them space to work.

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“The amount of square meters to play in is unbelievably difficult,” Van Basten said.

Neymar was calculated to have spent almost 14 minutes on the turf injured or simulating injury during Brazil’s five games at the tournament.

Some dramatic rolling falls before coming to a stop started a trend in online videos of youth soccer teams practicing faking injury when their coach called out Neymar’s name.

Asked if Neymar had become a joke, Van Basten said “he makes people laugh so also I think that’s a positive thing. It’s always nice if we have some humor in the game.”

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Once the world’s best center forward with AC Milan and the Dutch national team, Van Basten has sympathy for players in his old position at this year’s World Cup.

Tight and compact defenses like Sweden and Iceland made it “very, very difficult for the No. 9 to get the ball, to make goals, to influence the game,” he said.

“Normally we say you can play between the lines,” Van Basten said. “But today it’s nearly impossible to get in between the lines. So coaches will have to find solutions. These things go in waves.”

He singled out Croatia playmaker Luka Modric for “reading the game, guiding the game” and leading his team to Sunday’s final against France.