RIO DE JANEIRO - Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari stood up for specialist dribbler Neymar on Tuesday, saying the flamboyant forward's reputation for falling down easily was undeserved and exaggerated.
"He gets fouled 10 times a match, and possibly one or two of those free kicks shouldn't be awarded, but then that is normal in football," Scolari told a news conference on Tuesday.
"The coaches who criticize Neymar, who claim he falls over or simulates fouls, do that because it's an easy way out for them.
"In Brazil it seems whenever somebody is really good, when you have players who can improvise and create things, it causes bad feeling," added Scolari.
Neymar is regarded as the outstanding player of his generation who embodies the spirit of Brazilian football with his often cheeky and unpredictable skills.
But, in a country where defenders regard being nutmegged as an insult and humiliation, he is also accused of showboating and exaggerating when he gets fouls.
Critics also wonder whether his lack of experience against world-class defenses is slowing his progress.
Scolari said Cristiano Ronaldo, who he coached for five years with Portugal, suffered from the same unfair reputation.
"Cristiano Ronaldo falls over a lot because he is good, he dribbles and he gets fouled," said Brazil's coach.
Scolari also touched on the controversial matter of whether 21-year-old Neymar should leave Santos for a foreign club.
"We have to accept he is in Brazil and give value to what he has achieved here," he said, emphasizing the forward would be given a licence to create.
"Neymar will have total freedom to dribble, to improvise and to use his creativity ... (but) you don't make a team just with improvisation, you have to have a group." (Reporting by Brian Homewood, editing by Tony Jimenez)