• Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Can Brazil win without their talisman?

Neymar celebrates with Dani Alves and Fred after scoring a goal during their 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match with Croatia in Sao Paulo, Brazil on June 12, 2014. Photo: Getty Images
Neymar celebrates with Dani Alves and Fred after scoring a goal during their 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match with Croatia in Sao Paulo, Brazil on June 12, 2014. Photo: Getty Images

Brazil will wake up this morning with mixed emotions. The hosts are through to their first World Cup semi-final since 2002 but they will go into the match with Germany without their best player Neymar.

The striker fractured his vertebra in a collision with Colombia defender Juan Camillo Zuniga in Fortaleza on June 4. And it was immediately clear that the injury was serious and soon after full-time in Brazil's 2-1 win, the team doctor confirmed that the 22-year-old will play no further part in the tournament, The Independent reports.

So will the hosts be able to get over the absence of their talisman?

Brazil's defender David Luiz celebrates after scoring a goal during the Round of 16 football match between Brazil and Chile. Photo: Getty Images
Brazil's defender David Luiz celebrates after scoring a goal during the Round of 16 football match between Brazil and Chile. Photo: Getty Images

There is no doubt that Neymar is the first name on Luiz Felipe Scolari's team-sheet. Earlier in the tournament the Brazil manager said of the striker: "The only thing we want is that Neymar is happy playing ball. He's a special player."

Brazil's defender David Luiz celebrates after scoring a goal during the Round of 16 football match between Brazil and Chile. Photo: Getty Images
Brazil's defender David Luiz celebrates after scoring a goal during the Round of 16 football match between Brazil and Chile. Photo: Getty Images

After the penalty shoot-out victory over Chile it was clear to see the relationship between the two most prominent figures in Brazilian football. With the striker struggling to contain his emotions, Scolari was there providing a shoulder for Neymar to cry into. In return for his paternal nature, Scolari is rewarded with a player who is consistently devastating for the national side.

At just 22 years of age, Neymar already has 54 caps and 35 goals, placing him sixth among Brazil's all-time top goal scorers.

During this World Cup, it's been clear that Neymar is the stand-out player in the side. On top of four goals to his name, Neymar also provides the creative spark that lifts the hosts above being an average side. In their win over Colombia he provided the corner for Thiago Silva's opener.

The general consensus is that Brazil are an ordinary side without him. Writing in his column for williamhill.com earlier in the tournament, former England manager Glenn Hoddle warned that Brazil would struggle without the Barcelona player.

Thiago Silva of Brazil scores his team's first goal past David Ospina of Colombia during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Quarter Final match between Brazil and Colombia. Photo: Getty Images
Thiago Silva of Brazil scores his team's first goal past David Ospina of Colombia during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Quarter Final match between Brazil and Colombia. Photo: Getty Images

"This was not the Brazil of the 1970s or the '80s," he said after hosts' opening win over Croatia. "Luiz Felipe Scolari is playing it very tight and the team are relying on magic from Neymar.

Brazil's defender David Luiz celebrates after scoring a goal during the Round of 16 football match between Brazil and Chile. Photo: Getty Images
Brazil's defender David Luiz celebrates after scoring a goal during the Round of 16 football match between Brazil and Chile. Photo: Getty Images

"If Neymar isn't pulling the strings then Brazil look a very ordinary team."

It's difficult to tell exactly how Brazil will cope without him because it's been so long since they did. The number 10 hasn't failed to start for over two years, a spell covering a staggering 38 games in which he has been named in the starting XI every time. At least they did manage to win the last game without him, a 3-1 victory over Denmark on 31 May 2012.

Because the former Santos striker is such a special player, Brazil do not have a ready-made replacement at their disposal, but nor do they have anyone who even comes close. Scolari has thus far been starting with a three-man attack consisting of Fred, Neymar and Hulk.

Brazil's defender David Luiz celebrates after scoring a goal during the Round of 16 football match between Brazil and Chile. Photo: Getty Images
Brazil's defender David Luiz celebrates after scoring a goal during the Round of 16 football match between Brazil and Chile. Photo: Getty Images

Fred has been described as the worst Brazilian striker ever to take part in a World Cup while where Hulk has looked more of a threat, he's yet to score at the tournament. On the bench are Jo and Bernard. The former was a flop at Manchester City and now plays his football back in Brazil with Atletico Mineiro. Bernard plays for Shakhtar Donetsk and in 13 appearances for La Selecao, has just the one goal.

There is no doubt Brazil will struggle with the absence of Neymar - quite simply they'll be missing their most talented player. But for many in Brazil, victory on home soil is written in the stars. They may not have factored the injury to Neymar in, but with the hosts just 90 minutes away from the dream final at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro all is still to play for.

Published: 9:26 am Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Last modified: 9:49 pm Tuesday, July 08, 2014

TAGS: world cup Brazil Chile fred Croatia Cameroon Brazil 2014 David Luiz Thiago Silva Neymar Jr.

Leave your comments | Comment Policy
BIT DEFENDER