How Brazil Will Adapt to Neymar Injury Absence in World Cup Semi vs. Germany

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How Brazil Will Adapt to Neymar Injury Absence in World Cup Semi vs. Germany
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Following the victory over Colombia in the World Cup quarterfinals, Brazil captain Thiago Silva said, as reported by ESPNdeportes.com in Spanish and the Independent in English:

Neymar is very important for us. We depend a lot on him and he makes the difference in our group.

...

We have proposed to win the World Cup for Neymar because of the injury he suffered. This moment could mark the start of a revolution for us.

He hopes and expects a lot from this group, and this could unite us, it could give us more determination to win.

On Friday night Brazil was able to beat Colombia and earned a spot in the semifinals, something it hadn’t achieved since Korea-Japan 2002.

But the big news wasn’t that Brazil was advancing and going to face Germany. Sadly, the headlines were that Neymar was out of the World Cup due to a fractured bone in his back.

The "Castelazo" was avoided by Luiz Felipe Scolari’s squad, but at a very high cost.

Neymar’s absence for this Brazil team is way more sensible than it would have been for other Brazil’s in the past.

In 2002, Ronaldinho got red-carded in the quarterfinals against England. The difference was that everybody knew that Ronaldo and Rivaldo were there to step up. Even when the three of them were on the pitch, there was a sense that if for any reason two of them did not contribute, the one left will take care of business.

The likely substitute for Neymar will be Willian. The Chelsea winger also has a lot of talent in his feet, but he hasn’t shown much of it during his playing time in this World Cup.

It was also evident during the penalty shootout against Chile that Willian doesn’t have Neymar’s strong character to carry the team when it needs it the most. Pressure was affecting him before and after he missed his penalty shot.

Hassan Ammar/Associated Press

Some might argue that Bernard could also be given the chance to start in Neymar’s place. But either choosing Willian or Bernard will definitely not make up for the No. 10 jersey being out.

So how does Brazil make up for Neymar’s absence?

Ironically, the best performance from Brazil, which was against Colombia, did not require as much of Neymar actually carrying the team as previous games. It was a group effort that erased Colombia’s offensive power in the first half and that managed to hold the Colombians until the last minutes of the quarterfinal clash.

The high pressure from Brazil, making Colombia lose the ball in its own half of the field and not allowing for its midfield to take control, were key for the Brazilian success. Also, playing on the limit of the game rules with the constant fouling played a big part in Brazil successfully stopping James Rodriguez and company.   

The Brazil from Friday reminded me of the Brazil from the Confederations Cup final against Spain. It was then that the high pressure paid huge dividends to the Brazilian team and—believe it or not—even Fred looked good by scoring a brace. In such a tactical scheme, Neymar does not become the center of the game and therefore Brazil does not rely on him as much.

However, the tactical playing style is not going to be enough against Germany. That is where players like Oscar, Hulk and Fred need to step up. They need to provide more magic to Brazil’s attack.

Oscar proved that he could do so against Croatia, but he has disappeared in all subsequent matches. If he ever decides to make another great presentation in this World Cup, Tuesday is the time to do so.

Hulk, and especially Fred, still have a massive debt with Felipao, the other 21 players in the squad and all of the Brazilian supporters. Between the two of them, they have managed to score only once so far.

They do put in a lot of effort and heart, I’m not reproaching that aspect, but they play for Brazil in offensive roles—they have to bring more to the table than just hard work.  

If these three can connect and pull the strings of the Selecao then Neymar’s absence won’t be their biggest issue, and they will facilitate the integration of whoever takes Neymar’s spot in the starting lineup. Neymar's replacement will be liberated from having the responsibility of carrying the team like the Barcelona forward did.

Going back to Thiago Silva’s words, if Neymar’s injury is going to cause a positive effect by revolutionizing and strengthening the group, then it is especially up for Oscar, Hulk and Fred to reflect it on the pitch.

Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Neymar’s absence is not the only one Felipao has to worry about. Thiago Silva, the captain, will also miss the semifinal due to a suspension after picking up yellow cards in the tournament.

Silva and David Luiz have been the best central-defensive duo in the World Cup, defensively and offensively. Thiago Silva’s contributions on the pitch and as a leader would be missed, undoubtedly.  

But here’s the thing with his absence that doesn’t put him in the same level as Neymar’s.

The leadership part of Silva can still be “there” for Brazil in the training sessions, in the locker room and on the bench. And Dante can certainly cover the defensive duties of Silva in the pitch in a similar manner.

It is true that Dante isn’t at the same level as Brazil’s captain, but playing next to a great center back like David Luiz will raise Dante’s game.

And to be sincere, in football, it will always be easier to destroy (defensive duties) than to create (offensive duties), and therefore Neymar’s absence is one step ahead and harder to replace than Thiago Silva’s. Taking into consideration you are comparing a world-class defender and a world-class attacker.

Silva is actually already contributing to team morale without having to be on the field, just refer to his quote at the beginning of this article.

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