Under pressure: English referee Howard Webb.

Under pressure: English referee Howard Webb. Photo: AFP

BELO HORIZONTE: Brazil have reacted furiously to provocative suggestions by Chile that English referee Howard Webb could be under pressure to allow the World Cup hosts to win the last-16 tie between the two nations.

Spokesman Rodrigo Paiva cut across a question aimed at Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari - when asked for his comments on the claims by Chile forward Alexis Sanchez - to launch into an angry rebuttal.

"We are going to talk about this only once," Paiva, senior press officer for the Brazilian Football Federation, said. "This is immature at the moment in football and the world we are living in today. This is ridiculous.

Chile star Alexis Sanchez says referee Webb could be under pressure to help Brazil advance.

Chile star Alexis Sanchez says referee Webb could be under pressure to help Brazil advance. Photo: AFP

"Talking about this is not just a lack of respect to Fifa and the Brazil Selecao, but the whole of Brazil and the Brazilian people. It is a lack of respect. Brazil does not need a referee to win a match. You are insulting Brazil and the Brazilian people."

Webb, who refereed the 2010 World Cup Final, is England's representative at this tournament and has been selected by FIFA to take charge of the potentially incendiary tie.

Brazil are increasingly concerned at the threat posed by Chile, whom they meet for the third time in five tournaments, but who have improved dramatically in recent years. Indeed, concern and worry was a theme at the pre-match press conference.

Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari.

Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari. Photo: Getty Images

"Now we are in the knockout stages we can't lose and we can't make a mistake," Scolari said. "So then we become slightly more afraid and nervous. That's normal at a World Cup and it's not because it's in Brazil. But when I'm with the players I have to convey my experience. Only when I am alone can I feel a little afraid. But I can't be like that with them."

Scolari revealed that he has employed psychologists to work with the Brazil squad, particularly some of the younger players such as Neymar and Oscar, to help them deal with the enormous pressure they are under to win this World Cup.

That pressure has grown because Brazil, despite topping Group A, have been unconvincing. Scolari admitted his squad is only at "80 per cent" at present. One of the players who admits he has underperformed is Brazil captain Thiago Silva.

"Am I able to shut it out or turn it off? No," the 29-year-old central defender said. "You are constantly thinking of it. For a year before the World Cup I was thinking of the Brazilian national team because this World Cup was in my home country.

"In the first match [against Croatia] I didn't look like Thiago Silva, it was not like me. But this guy beside me [Scolari] is always with us, he's very strong. I am going to stop talking now because I am a big cry baby and I am going to start crying.

"As for Chile, Sanchez is here to be a landmark in history but I am also here to make history."

The Telegraph, London