An official from Brazil's World Cup squad has sparked an internet frenzy after a bizarre incident involving a random cat, that somehow gatecrashed a press conference in Qatar. Real Madrid forward Vinicius Jr was speaking to reporters ahead of Brazil's quarter-final against Croatia on Saturday morning (AEDT) when the cat hopped up on the table in front of him.
Clearly perplexed by the sight of the four-legged intruder, Vini Jr. pressed on with the interview regardless, before a member of Brazil's staff stopped him in his tracks. The press officer grabbed the cat by the hair on its back, picking it up and throwing it off the table.
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Vini Jr. looked genuinely shocked by the manner in which the cat had been disposed of, throwing a few uneasy glances in the direction of the press officer sitting beside him. The man followed up his unceremonious dumping of the feline by throwing his arms out in an extravagant gesture to declare that the problem had been dealt with.
After a brief pause in his press conference, Vinicius let out a nervous-sounding laugh as the media chief appeared to try and justify his actions. Images later emerged of the cat relaxing on the floor of the press room.
Footage of the strange incident quickly spread across social media, causing a divided response around the football world. While some viewers found the incident funny, others described the press officer's manhandling of the feline as animal cruelty and hoped that a 'cat curse' or some form of karma would come back to bite the Brazilians at the World Cup.
Brazil in ominous form at the World Cup
Brazil heads into its quarter-final against Croatia brimming with confidence after a 4-1 thumping of South Korea in its round of 16 clash. The five-time World Cup champions tore Korea to shreds in the opening half, with goals from Vinicius Jr., Neymar, Richarlison and Lucas Pacqueta putting the South Americans 4-0 up at halftime. Croatia beat Japan 3-1 on penalties in their last-16 encounter after the match finished 1-1 at the end of fulltime and extra time.
Brazil's impressive display came against a determined Korea side that managed a thunderous consolation goal from Paik Seung-ho in the second half, as the South Americans took their foot off the pedal. "We're dreaming of the title, of course," Brazilian talisman Neymar - who overcame an ankle sprain to start the game - said after the match. "Today was the fourth game, there are three left. We're very focused on getting that title."
Having failed to score in the first half of any match so far this tournament, five-times champions Brazil corrected that with a ruthless four-goal opening half that started with Vinicius Junior's seventh minute opener from Raphina's superb build-up. The Barcelona winger sliced through the red wall and when his cross eluded the closely-marked Neymar, Vinicius Junior was at the far post to gently lift the ball over scrambling defenders and the goalkeeper.
Five minutes later the Brazilians doubled their lead when Richarlison was hauled down in the penalty box and the referee instantly pointed to the spot. Neymar stepped up to wrong-foot goalkeeper Kim Seung-gyu for his 76th Brazil goal - one shy of Pele's international haul.
By the half-hour mark it was 3-0, thanks to a Richarlison goal that many insist will be the best of the tournament. Richarlison seemed to be toying with his Asian opponents after juggling the ball on his head a number of times, before beating his defender, before combining with two teammates in a slick passing sequence that finished with the Brazil forward side-footing into the net.
Paqueta fired home in the 36th minute to complete Brazil's scoring for the first half, and the match. That the South Americans went in only 4-0 up was as much to do with their profligacy as anything the Koreans could muster in terms of defence. With their elaborate goal celebrations, the Brazilians had done more dancing than defending in the opening 45 minutes and the second half followed a similar pattern, with goalkeeper Kim single-handedly denying Brazil another hatful of goals.
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