Brazil Can Utilise Hulk as No. 9 vs. Colombia to Offset Possible Neymar Injury

Christopher AtkinsContributor IJune 29, 2014

Brazil's Neymar, right, celebrates with teammate Hulk after scoring during the group A World Cup soccer match against Croatia in the opening game of the tournament at Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Thursday, June 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Frank Augstein/Associated Press

It is the outcome that every Brazilian has feared—Neymar could potentially be unavailable for a knockout fixture at the World Cup. BBC Sport report that Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari is "hopeful" his star will be available against Colombia on Friday, but it is now a race against time.

Given the enthusiasm with which Neymar plays the game there was always the chance of such a circumstance arising. Having been booked in the opening clash with Croatia, he has been one yellow card away from a suspension ever since.

Given Brazil's reliance on him as a goal threat thus far, it would be a worrying scenario for Scolari and his team.

Whatever the situation with Neymar, change is needed in Brazil's attack. The introduction of Fernandinho in midfield undoubtedly helped the selecao against Chile on Saturday night, but Brazil were woeful in attack for long periods of the game.

With both Fred and Jo failing to provide a target at the head of the attacking unit, Brazil's main attacking threat came from the usual source of Neymar for much of the game's early stages until rough treatment from his Chilean opponents saw his impact significantly reduced.

Hassan Ammar/Associated Press

Oscar, the man who so often comes good in Brazilian colours, was largely anonymous on the night with little space in which to work and thus it was that Brazil's biggest threat came through the power and pace of Hulk.

The Zenit man had begun to come under pressure at the tournament, following a series of poor displays in the famous canarinha shirt. Yet, against Chile, he was the one player really pushing Brazil forward for long periods.

But for a handball—correctly signalled by referee Howard Webb—he would have been on the scoresheet and could possibly have earned himself a penalty also. A number of attacks may still have come grinding to a halt at his feet, but he was providing more of a threat than either Fred or his lacklustre replacement Jo.

Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

In upping his performance levels, Hulk may just have given Scolari a viable alternative at the right time for Brazil. The former Porto star has played plenty of his career through the middle as a centre-forward and, indeed, his strike-rate for Zenit this season when used centrally is strong (6 in 9 games per

Given the lack of mobility offered by Fred, Hulk would make a big change and hopefully open up space for the likes of Oscar behind him. Should Neymar be absent, Willian and Bernard could offer increased pace in wide areas.

Brazil need attacking impetus and at the moment Fred, amusingly compared to a traffic cone on social media, is failing to provide a platform for anyone other than the sensational talent that is Neymar to shine.

Scolari may fear making too many changes, especially if Neymar does indeed miss the Colombia clash. However, in the likely event that Brazil's golden boy does indeed win his fitness race, it is a change that makes complete sense.

Colombia will be yet another major test and Brazil have already been handed a major warning by Chile. Scolari may trust his players, but he cannot afford to let caution get the better of him with the stakes so high.