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Ronaldo defends Neymar against play-acting claims

By Michael Place MOSCOW Russia (Xinhua) -- Brazil soccer great Ronaldo has leapt to the defense of his compatriot Neymar, refuting claims the Selecao forward was been play-acting during the World Cup in Russia.

Among those to criticize Neymar in recent days are former England strikers Gary Lineker and Alan Shearer, Argentina legend Diego Maradona and Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio.

But Ronaldo called on critics to be more objective and said referees were not providing sufficient protection for Brazil’s No. 10

“We have to be more technical in our comments and not like punters in a bar,” Ronaldo said during an event in Moscow on Wednesday.

“Football is interpreted in many different ways and there are many opinions. Neymar uses his mobility to defend himself from the bumps and hits that are dished out to him. The referees have given him little protection. He is a great talent. When I was repeatedly targeted with violent actions I felt that I was treated unjustly. The criticism is stupid and the response that he is providing for the national team is marvellous. We still haven’t seen the best of him.”

With the early elimination of Germany, Argentina and Spain, Brazil are now strong favorites to win their sixth World Cup as the competition enters its final 12 days. Tite’s team have been unbeaten in their four matches so far here, conceding just one goal in the process.

Their next assignment is a quarterfinal clash with Belgium on Friday. The winner will play either France or Uruguay in the semifinals four days later.

Meanwhile, Ronaldo said he hoped Brazil could avoid a semifinal clash with France, who progressed to the last eight by defeating Argentina 4-3, inspired by a Kylian Mbappe brace.

“We always have problems playing against France so I hope they get knocked out before facing Brazil,” Ronaldo said.



Calf injury leaves Cavani major doubt for Urugugay against France

MOSCOW Russia (Xinhua) -- Uruguay will almost certainly be without their striker Edison Cavani for their World Cup quarterfinal against France in Nizhny Novgorod on Friday as he struggles to recover from a calf injury.

Cavani scored Uruguay’s two goals as the beat Portugal 2-1 in the last 16, but had to limp out of Saturday night’s win in the closing minutes of the game and has not been able to train with his team-mates since.

The Paris Saint Germain forward is Uruguay’s top scorer in this World Cup with three goals and has formed an important partnership with Barcelona frontman Luis Suarez, who benefits greatly from his ability to hold the ball up and focus the attention of rival defenders.

If Cavani is unable to recover his replacement will also come from the Spanish Liga Santander with either Cristhian Stuani or Maxi Gomez in line to play.

31-year-old  Girona forward Stuani enjoyed his best ever season in top-flight competition last season, netting 21 league goals as newly promoted Girona went close to qualifying for Europe, while 21-year-old Gomez had a fine debut season in Spain netting 17 goals for an irregular Celta Vigo.


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