Desmond Kane

Only Marcelo’s shameful diving was more untimely than Neymar’s tears

Desmond Kane

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Patriotism is perhaps not the last refuge of a scoundrel, alluding to the renowned quote that misrepresented what the 18th-century English writer and poet Samuel Johnson actually meant, but at times national pride can be made to look extremely silly.

Especially when a country's anthem is being bellowed out prior to an international football match.

Excuse me for being old fashioned, but I always thought blood, sweat and tears pour forth during and after a match. Not before. Not when a side are about to embark upon such exacting moments.

As the poster boy for this tournament, Barcelona's attacking midfielder Neymar is the player a nation is hoping can help Seleção claim their first World Cup since the Ronaldo-inspired vintage of 2002.

They are looking to men to handle the heat of being hosts, to rein in their emotions and to play rousing football. To be, well, like mature men.

[NEYMAR'S TEARS DURING NATIONAL ANTHEM]

Especially when the hard work is yet to be done. And the 0-0 draw with Mexico in Fortaleza was extremely hard work. It proved to be an arduous night of hard labour against opponents operating with a real grit and willingness not to be broken.

One cannot imagine guys like Dunga getting caught up in this. Surely starting to sob after the national anthems but before the match kicks off cannot be beneficial for the mind, body or spirit.

It seemed to this onlooker that Neymar's crying during Hino Nacional Brasileir (the Brazil national anthem) reeked a bit of shameless exhibitionism with the cameras trained on them. In the final analysis, it did not mean anything.

Especially when so many grown men representing Brazil were apparently caught up in a euphoric surge of nationalism then failed to match their stirring rendition of their anthem with a patchy performance that hardly matched honour for the badge.

Forget the crying. Save the tears, Neymar. Spare us the cringeworthy X Factor-style exhibitionism. Just give us the x factor.

Whether grown men should be crying at such a juncture is a matter for another debate, but Brazil manager 'Big' Phil Scolari does not seem like the sort of bloke who gets easily teary.

He should have slapped a couple of his men, and ordered them to behave. We are not yet a week into this month-long tournament for goodness sake. The group has yet to be won. The tears should wait until the trinkets are being handed out.

[MEXICO GOALKEEPING HEROICS HOLD HOSTS BRAZIL]

Goodness knows what the forward Fred was doing on the pitch. He was part of the choir boys who quickly fell silent during a forgettable evening. There was more movement in Fred Elliott's butcher shop than what he came up with.

To justify his role as an impostor, he completed only eight of his 16 passes against the North Americans. The boos had started to mingle among the home crowd by the time he departed after the hour-mark. The emotion of the national anthem was well and truly forgotten by then.

Then there was the Real Madrid defender Marcelo's swan dive in the closing moments. It was an utter embarrassment to his country, himself and the sport when he went to ground for no reason having managed to get goalside of Raul Jiménez.

Like Thomas Mueller's comical representations during Germany's 4-0 win over Portugal a day earlier, Marcelo tried to con the Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir into awarding a penalty.

It was an act of cheating that will again go unpunished despite television cameras invading these shiny stadiums. It is criminal that such technology is not being deployed to hammer men like Marcelo.

We should just be thankful that Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura was not having to make the call on Marcelo's shenanigans. Or there would have been another international incident to discuss.

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If you want to see real pride in national performance, it was there and more in the efforts of the Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa who was hellbent on refusing to be beaten. And wasn't.

Excited fans hit Twitter to compare his save in the first half from Neymar to the time Gordon Banks clawed out a Pele header in the 1970 World Cup finals in Mexico. Not quite that good, but still fairly heroic.

[OCHOA SETS SOCIAL MEDIA ABLAZE AFTER HEROIC PERFORMANCE]

He then stood unmoved before instinctively throwing out a paw to prevent Thiago Silva from scoring a header late on.

But Mexico, whose bulldog-spirited coach Miguel Herrera is more like Pitbull than the opening ceremony singer of the same moniker, also had plenty of their own offensive moves. They were worth their draw.

They could well have had more in the dying seconds when Andres Guardado thumped a shot narrowly over before the QPR goalkeeper Julio Cesar was forced to block a booming effort by substitute Raul Jiminez.

All this heaving leaves Brazil only needing a draw against Cameroon on Monday to progress to the last 16 from Group A with Mexico probably chasing a similar outcome against Croatia to join them.

But what this evening of some frustration proves to Brazil and other teams at these finals is that you do not stop after you sing your national anthem.

Pride in performance is displayed only by the quality of your football. Not blustering jingoism.

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