Brazil Need a World Cup Plan B in Attack Despite Neymar Brilliance

Christopher Atkins@@chris_elasticoContributor IJune 25, 2014

BRASILIA, BRAZIL - JUNE 23:  Neymar of Brazil celebrates scoring his team's second goal and his second of the game during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match between Cameroon and Brazil at Estadio Nacional on June 23, 2014 in Brasilia, Brazil.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Even Neymar's most vocal critics would struggle to criticise his performances in a Brazil shirt over the past two years.

In that time he has scored 26 of his 35 career international goals, been named the best player of the Confederations Cup and scored two braces in two of his first three World Cup outings. His record is simply phenomenal and all while he is still just 22 years of age.

Regardless of how he has adapted to life in Barcelona, when in a Brazil shirt he is untouchable. It is a blessing for national team coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, but it also presents a dilemma. What do Brazil do when Neymar is off colour?

It is a problem that, of course, occasionally rears its head. Generally, though, the selecao have been good enough to overcome the majority of opponents sent their way for the countless friendly games they have played over the past few years.

There have been exceptions, though. England troubled them twice last year, Switzerland also earned success against them, while only in the past two weeks Serbia and Mexico have worried Scolari's side. On all occasions, with Neymar either below his par or marked out of the game, the side as a whole has struggled.

With just four games separating Brazil from a sixth World Cup triumph and, crucially, a first on home soil it is a real worry.

The side's No. 10 Oscar is frequently outstanding for his country, but he thrives off his close understanding with Neymar. Meanwhile striker Fred, whose lack of mobility is questioned even at this point, relies on his colleague's movement to open up space in the area. Even when others are successful, so many elements of the side's attacking unit are linked to their star player's performance.

BRASILIA, BRAZIL - JUNE 23: (L-R) Willian, Neymar and David Luiz of Brazil react after defeating Cameroon 4-1 during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match between Cameroon and Brazil at Estadio Nacional on June 23, 2014 in Brasilia, Brazil.  (Photo
Stu Forster/Getty Images

Scolari, though, has to figure out a way to get Brazil scoring through channels that don't involve Neymar and that means that those who are currently riding on past performances need examining.

Hulk is, at present, wasting an attacking berth on the right. Based on performances over the past few months it is a major surprise that Chelsea's Willian has not yet been installed in that role.

Fernandinho, meanwhile, looks set to come into the side for Paulinho in a box-to-box midfield role. The latter has been lethargic thus far at the competition and the lack of midfield runners has limited the selecao as an attacking threat.

In a mere 45 minutes against Cameroon, Fernandinho put forward a strong case to suggest that he could go some way to rectifying that current malaise. He will also offer better distribution in midfield than has been seen thus far.

The third and final change that Scolari must make is to maintain Neymar in a berth on the left-flank in order to make Marcelo a threat once more.

The Real Madrid full-back has disappointed thus far at the World Cup, failing to make the overlapping runs forward that were a feature of Brazil's success last year. With Scolari choosing to initially alter his setup and move Neymar in-field, though, Marcelo has lost his partner in crime.

Whether Neymar performs or not, his mere presence opens up space outside for Marcelo and the wing-back can hurt opponents—as he recently showed in the Champions League final.

Having reverted to that setup for the clash with Cameroon, Felipao must not get restless again.

At the moment, Neymar is shining but he is having to do too much himself. Key to success from this point on is relieving some of the pressure on his shoulders and sharing the load among the side's other big name players.

BRASILIA, BRAZIL - JUNE 23: (L-R) Maicon, Jo, Bernard, Neymar and Hulk of Brazil look on from the bench during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match between Cameroon and Brazil at Estadio Nacional on June 23, 2014 in Brasilia, Brazil.  (Photo by Ma
Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

If the introduction of Fernandinho can shake things up it will be a start in that process, while Marcelo should be encouraged to offer more support to his young colleague on the flank. Even those two beginning to share the burden would make Brazil a much more rounded side.

Neymar is a special player who, as he did at Santos, is happy to continually take much of the strain for his team. Such honesty is a wonderful virtue, but to take advantage of it on such a stage is grossly unfair and ultimately an unlikely route to success.

What's worse, with Neymar already carrying a yellow card, just one more aberration would see him suspended for a potentially crucial tie. With that in mind, to gamble solely on Neymar carrying the selecao to success would be a major mistake on Scolari's behalf.

Changes must be made, starting with Chile this weekend.