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Why Paulinho and Not Neymar Will Be Brazil's Key Player at World Cup 2014

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Why Paulinho and Not Neymar Will Be Brazil's Key Player at World Cup 2014
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Neymar may take the headlines and plaudits as Brazil's most recognisable and talented player, but there are many key men in Luiz Felipe Scolari's side whose work go relatively unnoticed.

One of those key players is Corinthians midfielder and soon-to-be Tottenham signing Paulinho.

Paulinho is the lynchpin of Scolari's Selecao, operating in the engine room alongside Luiz Gustavo in their Confederations Cup triumph in June.

With a vast array of attacking talent in Brazil's lineup, there needs to be a connection between the defence and the forwards. Paulinho provides that with aplomb.

With Luiz Gustavo performing the duty of shielding the fragile Selecao defence, Paulinho's job is to pick up the ball and start attacks, controlling the direction of the Brazilian counterattack.

This is very similar to his role at Corinthians and the one he will adopt in Andre Villas-Boas' Tottenham side.

Michael Regan/Getty Images

In Brazil, he excelled in a two-man midfield alongside Ralf, making surging runs to great effect and supporting the likes of Alexandre Pato and Paolo Guerrero in attack.

In each of his seasons at Corinthians, Paulinho broke the 10-goal barrier, outlining his potential in attack. He also has a tendency to perform in "clutch" situations, such as his winner against Uruguay in the Confederations Cup semi-final.

Paulinho also repeated the trick against Chelsea in the 2012 Club World Cup final, as his late run allowed him to assist Guerrero in scoring the winner in a 1-0 win.

The Brazilian's greatest value lies in his ability to turn defence into attack, to support the more creative players ahead of him as well as provide a second defensive shield should the situation require it.

For Tottenham, he will fit in perfectly alongside compatriot Sandro and operate behind Belgian attacking midfielder Moussa Dembele.

He will reprise this role in Scolari's tactical setup for the 2014 World Cup, where Paulinho is virtually guaranteed a place in the squad.

Michael Regan/Getty Images

At this moment in time, the only question relating to Paulinho is who will partner him in the midfield "double pivot," which was key to their victory over Spain in the Confederations Cup final.

With his competition all at sea, only Hernanes is in a position to compete with Paulinho. Even then, Hernanes was deployed in a more advanced role in the final, perhaps indicating a change in Scolari's plans for the Lazio star.

With Lucas Leiva and Sandro struggling with injuries, and Ramires out of favour, it looks unlikely that Paulinho will be relinquishing his place in the first team.

As said before, his ability as a modern midfielder to pass, shoot, dribble and defend outlines his usefulness to Scolari.

No one else offers such a wide range of qualities—or at such a high standard.

If Paulinho's debut season sees him land on his feet and improve even further, the Brazilian will undoubtedly become a key part of Brazil's side for years to come.

It could even be argued that without Paulinho, Brazil would struggle to win a sixth World Cup on home soil in 2014.

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