Rio de Janeiro - Neymar's father called Sunday on supporters of the Brazilian star not to get into online disputes with the many critics of his performance so far at the World Cup.
"Guys, cool down on social media. Avoid insulting anyone. If you want to support Juninho (Neymar), do it positively," Neymar Sr said in a message published by Globoesporte.com website.
Neymar is not only the world's most expensive player but the much-hyped centerpiece of Brazil's talented team. However, on his return from a lengthy layoff for foot surgery, he has attracted accusations of not being a team player and overdoing the theatrical diving.
On Friday, the 26-year-old Paris Saint-Germain striker burst into tears at the end of a tense 2-0 win, in which he scored, over tiny Costa Rica.
His performance sparked a flood of sarcastic tweets and memes mocking his tendency to fall over at relatively minor challenges. Some have even called for Neymar to be dropped, saying he distracts the rest of the team and slows down the Brazilian game.
Coach Tite says Neymar is a rare talent who will only get better as the tournament goes on.
Neymar's father said that the online insults could "contaminate" his son and pleaded with supporters "to use the correct weapons, such as faith and prayers."
Brazil plays Serbia on Wednesday.
Also read: Neymar fitness cloud lingers as pressure mounts on Brazil