Vinicius Jnr claims opponent tactics "went too far" as he feared for World Cup dream

Vinicius Junior of Brazil during the Brazil Training Session at Juventus Training Center on November 14, 2022 in Turin, Italy.

Real Madrid forward and Brazil international Vinicius Junior has spoken of his fear of missing this year’s World Cup due to “dirty” challenges from LaLiga opponents.

Vinicius has emerged as a star for club and country in recent years, bagging 22 goals last season including the winning strike in Madrid’s Champions League final victory over Liverpool. He is already into double figures this campaign as his strong form continues.

However, the talented 22-year-old has often been a target for rough challenges from multiple opponents within LaLiga. He has been fouled more than any other player in the division – and 10 times more than Getafe striker Enes Unal, who is second on the list.

Vinicius told Reuters earlier this week: “What happens of the field stays on the field, but it went too far. You can come strong but they were being dirty with their challenges. Rodrygo and I suffered a lot in those last games and feared the worst, to get injured and miss the World Cup.

“When you start to become an important player, rivals come after you harder. You have to learn to deal with that. I learned a lot from Neymar when he played for Barcelona, he suffered a lot too. Cristiano [Ronaldo], when he played for Real, suffered a lot too.”

The Real Madrid forward added that it was a club team-mate who gave him the best advice: “But it was Karim [Benzema] who told me to stay calm and have peace of mind because if the rivals are chasing you it is because you are relevant, because they are afraid of you.

“So that’s why when I take the ball and burst forward I do with a vengeance. Yes, I can get hurt. But I’m prepared for the challenge.”

Vinicius is likely to start for Brazil in this month’s finals in Qatar as his nation are among the favourites to lift their first title in the competition since 2002. There is no shortage of attacking talent for Tite’s side but Vinicius is likely to be one of the first names on the teamsheet alongside Neymar.

“Neymar went through so much as a young player, having to play at such young age and with a lot of pressure,” added Vinicius – when speaking of comparisons to the expectations faced by the Paris Saint-Germain star. “So he is the one that makes sure today that everything is easier for the new generation.

“It is a dream because we grew up idolising him. It is very important what he does as a leader. He knows that by helping us, we can help him a lot too, make a great World Cup. And that’s good for us. It is good for the Brazilian people that want us to win.”

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