World Cup

Brazilian players criticize fans

Brazilian attacker Neymar looks glum as another opportunity is missed against South Africa.
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Brazil players have criticized their own fans for the booing and jeering by supporters during a lackluster 1-0 win over South Africa in a friendly.

The loud booing by more than 50,000 fans at the Morumbi stadium could be heard for most of Friday's match, targeting both the players and coach Mano Menezes. The jeers began early in the first half as Brazil struggled and at times the fans even applauded South Africa.

''When you are playing at home you would expect to have the support from the fans but that's not what happened, unfortunately,'' Brazil right back Daniel Alves said. ''If we had the fans behind us everything would have been easier, but that's not the mentality here. We have to understand that and just keep doing our job.''

Players acknowledged the team didn't play the beautiful football its fans were hoping for. But they said that supporters needed to get behind Brazil ahead of the World Cup at home in 2014.

''We are used to getting this type of reaction when we play away from home, but we knew this was possible here too,'' goalkeeper Diego Alves said. ''It's difficult to play with this type of pressure from our own fans, but I guess we better get used to it because we know the World Cup will be played here and there could be more then.''

Brazil's winner on Friday came from substitute striker Hulk in the 75th minute.

''Not even superhero keeps fans from booing,'' read a headline at the O Globo newspaper on Saturday.

Young striker Neymar, the player expected to lead Brazil at the World Cup, heard the most jeers from fans. When he was substituted near the end, the crowd loudly chanted against him.

''The national team won but we still got booed, that's new for me,'' he said. ''It's sad for something like this to happen, I think my resume should speak for itself, but that was not the case.''

In addition to not playing well, as a Santos player Neymar was already at a disadvantage - playing in a city that's home to his team's three main rivals.

Fans in Sao Paulo have traditionally been tough on the national team, which is based in Rio de Janeiro and historically has had closer ties with that city. Brazil has often had more difficulties pleasing fans in the bigger football centers, including Rio, and it wasn't the first time the team got jeered at home.

The disapproval was greater than usual because of the ongoing discontent with coach Menezes, who was booed nearly every time he left the bench to give instructions to players or to make substitutions.

At one point, fans chanted: ''Goodbye, Mano.''

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Many fans and local media have been calling for his resignation because of the team's disappointing results and poor performances recently. The pressure increased after he failed to lead Brazil to the gold medal at the London Games. Brazil was a clear favorite to win the under-23 tournament but lost in the final to Mexico. The Olympic gold is the only trophy Brazil has yet to win in international football.

''It hurts a little bit for this to happen here,'' Menezes said. ''This is not new but we have to try to change this perception. We will be playing the World Cup here at home and it will be a lot easier if we have the support from the fans. We know the moment is not good, but we need their understanding.''

Menezes revamped the team after taking charge following the 2010 World Cup, introducing several promising young stars including Neymar, Oscar, Leandro Damiao and Lucas. Most of the players summoned for Friday's friendly were in the Olympic squad.

''The younger the team is, the more the players will feel this lack of support,'' Menezes said. ''We hoped to have a more favorable environment here.''

The next test will be on Monday, when Brazil will play a friendly against China in the northeastern city of Recife.

''We hope the fans there will be more reasonable,'' Menezes said. ''It's going to be another tough match and if the goals don't come early we will have difficulties. But if we have the support from the fans it will be less complicated.''

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