Brazil vs. Uruguay: Stars Who Need to Have the Biggest Performances
If you aren't excited by the Brazil vs. Uruguay semifinal at the 2013 Confederations Cup, you aren't a football fan.
With Brazil exempt from World Cup qualification, fans have been deprived of seeing these two sides face off in meaningful matches for quite awhile now.
The stars will be out for both managers who will be playing full-strength sides in order to build positive momentum toward the 2014 World Cup.
Here are a couple of key performers who will need to step up the most for their respective countries.
Neymar has been the player of the tournament so far. He's scored a goal in each of Brazil's three group stage matches.
There were plenty of fans who didn't believe the hype and weren't sold on Neymar's performances with Santos. While the Confederations Cup isn't the most hallowed tournament on earth, it still says a lot about Neymar's ability that he's done what he has so far.
The 21-year-old has been a large part of Brazil's attack, whether it's scoring goals or setting up his teammates. If he struggles, Brazil will struggle, especially considering Luiz Felipe Scolari is counting on Fred to be his centre-forward.
Uruguay's midfield has been a bit of an issue so far in the tournament. Should he make it on the pitch, it will be up to Paulinho to exploit that problem.
There was some worry that he'd be out against Uruguay. It looks like Paulinho will suit up for Brazil, per The Associated Press via Sports Illustrated.
Like Neymar, Paulinho has been fantastic in this tournament. Unlike Neymar, he hasn't had this kind of attention before, so his stock is soaring as a result of the Confederations Cup.
Paulinho is a name some fans have heard before, but the only time they probably have ever seen him on the pitch was when Corinthians beat Chelsea in the 2012 Club World Cup.
In the Confederations Cup, Paulinho has been the link from defense to attack for Brazil. He's got Luiz Gustavo playing a little deeper and Oscar up ahead in an attacking position.
Uruguay will want to get on the counter, so Paulinho can disrupt that and then start the attack for Brazil with a key pass.
Edinson Cavani has been a ghost in this tournament.
Maybe his head is elsewhere as he is preparing to move from Napoli this summer. He's not focused on the tournament because he's thinking about which club will be his new home.
Cavani is only human. It's not unexpected that outside factors could affect his play on the pitch.
The larger concern is that it just continues what have been average performances from the striker for the Uruguay national team. Cavani is no doubt a world-class striker with Napoli. When he plays for Uruguay, though, that form disappears.
The contrast was never more apparent than against Nigeria, when Cavani had a couple of great chances to score but missed them badly.
Luis Suarez can't do it all, and Diego Forlan is too old to be able to run around the pitch like he did in 2010 and 2011. Cavani has to step up if Uruguay is to return to the elite of world football.
Watching Uruguay now illustrates just how important Forlan was and continues to be for the team. When he was the talisman, Uruguay finished fourth at the 2010 World Cup and won the 2011 Copa America.
Now that he's aged, La Celeste is struggling to qualify for the 2014 World Cup.
Forlan's goal against Nigeria proves he still has enough left in the tank to change a game. While he can't do as much as he could in the past, Forlan is capable of scoring the occasional "golazo" and impacting a game.
If he can put a similar performance in against Brazil, Uruguay will be in business. That will ease the burden on Suarez slightly and hopefully take some pressure off Cavani.
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