Diving is to soccer as spitting is to baseball. It’s an ugly habit, but it’s so ingrained in the mindset of some players, that no amount of rules or technology can make it go away. And towering above all divers is Neymar, who has elevated rolling and twisting in pain after the slightest touch to an art form.
To be fair, Neymar is legitimately fouled much more frequently than other players. His elegant and skilled style of play frustrates defenders, who resort to kicks and pushes to take the ball or slow him down. But it’s also true that Neymar exaggerates many of those contacts to an almost comical degree, hoping to get a yellow or a red card for the offender. And in these times of VAR and dozens of camera angles, referees and fans can tell with much more certainty when it’s a foul and when it’s acting.
In the game against Mexico, Neymar shined, scoring a goal and setting up another. But he drew the ire of Mexican fans for his dives and particularly for an incident on the sidelines when the game was 1-0 with 20 minutes left. Mexican defender Miguel Layún stepped on Neymar’s ankle when he was on the ground and the Brazilian gave a two minute “pain performance” for the ages. Layún’s foul was reprehensible and he should have received a yellow or red card since he willingly stepped on Neymar’s ankle. But the impact wasn’t as devastating as Neymar wanted the referee to think.
Fans took note on Twitter and compared the Brazilian to other masters of fake pain: telenovela actresses. Check out some of the best memes below.