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Big Phil: Refs Must Protect Tricky Neymar

Brazil boss ‘Big Phil’ Scolari singled out Neymar for praise, after his delightful goal against Portugal on Tuesday night.

"He was very good tonight," Scolari said of Neymar.

"I've been watching him for three or four years since he came up at Santos and it' s only once every 15 or 20 games when he doesn't play to his full potential. That's Neymar." 

The Barcelona forward was frequently the victim of overzealous tackling by Portugal’s flummoxed defenders, as he tormented them with his tricky feet.

He is set to be one of the stars of the World Cup next year, and Scolari hopes that Neymar is given the protection by referees to allow his captivating skills to blossom.

"Neymar has something - his dribble - that means he is exposed to opponents who will foul him or bring him down," Scolari said.

"I don't know if 'hunted' is the right word but he is being stopped by fouls and referees have to take note."

Meanwhile, ‘Big Phil’ says that he has between 70-80% of his team selected for the World Cup next year, but there are still a few places at stake.

"In the games against Australia and then again today I've seen there are one or two players I can add to the 17 or 18 I already have on my list," he explained, looking forward to Brazil’s next preparatory friendlies against South Korea and Zambia next month.

"I might call up one or two new players to see how they react."

One of the players who already knows his ticket to the World Cup is safe is goalkeeper Julio Cesar.

He had fallen out of favour under the previous Brazil regime, and no longer plays first division football.

But he is happy to have been assured that he is in Scolari’s plans.

"I was as surprised as you," Cesar said after his place as Brazil’s number 1 was confirmed by Scolari.

"I think he wanted to protect me, so many people were asking about my position. Now I need to keep working hard and maintain my form over the next eight months."

Read: Big Phil: Brazil Before The Bank

Read: Neymar Helps Brazil Crush Portugal

Watch: Neymar’s goal against Brazil’s former colonisers.

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