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Friday, July 20, 2018

FIFA World Cup: Brazil’s starting XI, minus 10

Hosts will have to grapple with the void created by the absence of Neymar when they play Germany in semis.

By: Reuters | Belo Horizonte | Updated: July 8, 2014 12:13:59 pm
Thomas Mueller is Germany's leading goal-scorer with four goals. (Source: AP) Thomas Mueller is Germany’s leading goal-scorer with four goals. (Source: AP)

Brazil must overcome the massive blow dealt by the injury to marquee forward Neymar if they are to beat frighteningly consistent Germany on Tuesday and book a World Cup final spot on home soil for a second time.

Brazil, chasing a sixth world title, are still reeling from Neymar’s injury in their quarterfinal win over Colombia, and the entire nation is holding its breath and hoping the team’s chances have not been irreparably damaged.

Neymar – Brazil’s No.10 – who scored four goals in the tournament, fractured a vertebra late in the game and will be out for the rest of the tournament but for Brazil there is no alternative but to get to the final in Rio de Janeiro on July 13.

Any other result would be a national catastrophe for the country of 200 million football-mad fans, similar to the 1950 final defeat by Uruguay, also in Brazil.

Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari will be forced to reshuffle his team in two positions with captain Thiago Silva suspended for the game against opponents who have made a record fourth consecutive World Cup semi-final.

“We’ll miss Neymar,” team mate Oscar said. “Whoever comes in in his place has to play as part of the team and beat Germany. The best thing we do is play as a team and I just hope that whoever comes in plays well,” the attacking midfielder said. To play as well as Neymar is probably expecting too much of Willian, likely to be his understudy at the Mineirao stadium in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday.

In addition to missing Neymar, Brazil will not be able to count on captain and central defender Thiago Silva because of a yellow card suspension. Dante, who plays in Germany for Bayern Munich, is his likely replacement. Fellow defender David Luiz is the probable captain on Tuesday. Neymar has netted 35 times in 54 games for Brazil, more than anyone else in the squad and Scolari has selected him for every one of the 27 matches he has coached since returning to manage Brazil for a second time in 2012.

But if anyone knows how to beat the Germans it is Scolari who led Brazil to their most recent world title in 2002 with a 2-0 victory over Germany in the final in what is, surprisingly, the teams’ only previous World Cup meeting.


The European heavyweights’ consistency since then is nothing short of spectacular, coming back as title contenders every four years and making the semifinals in 2006, 2010 and 2014. However, what they have failed to do is lift a fourth trophy, stumbling at the penultimate hurdle each time.

Without a World Cup win since 1990 and an international title since Euro 96, the Germans are convinced they finally have a team that can deliver the killer punch. “I can only urge you to go and reward yourselves,” German football association President Wolfgang Niersbach told the players through the announcement system on board the airplane back from their 1-0 quarterfinal win over France on Friday.

“Reward yourselves by doing in this last week exactly what you have been doing so far. You have it in you and we all want to return again to the Maracana in Rio. Let’s stick together because then we can land the big coup.”

Less exciting and less youthful than 2010 but arguably more efficient and experienced, the Germans did not need to fire on all cylinders against France, scoring an early goal and holding on to their lead with relative ease.

No cup comeback: neymar

BELO HORIZONTE: Neymar and the Brazilian football confederation have denied media reports that the striker could undergo special treatment on his fractured vertebra to try to play in the World Cup final if Brazil makes it that far. Both Neymar and the confederation released statements late on Sunday saying that nothing that could risk the player’s health or career would be attempted to allow him to play in the final if Brazil advances past Germany in Tuesday’s semifinals.

The statements came after the Brazilian media quoted doctors from the Brazlian club Santos as saying there was a chance Neymar could play in the final by with alternative treatments and painkiller injections.

Hope floats without No.10?

Much has been made of Brazil leaning heavily on Neymar’s shoulders. Now that his back has given way, there is talk of the hosts becoming easy prey for the Germans. But does this talk have any grounding in statistics?

Teams that have relied heavily on one player for their scoring chances have fared better than teams that have shared opportunities more evenly. Of the 10 that had one player involved in more than 25 percent of their chances, eight made the Round of 16 and five the quarterfinals. Brazil and Germany stand apart though for their more equitable chance-sharing arrangements.

While Neymar has had 23% of Brazil’s scoring chances go through him (9 shots on target {t}, 13 chances created {c}), Oscar (13%, 5t, 7c), even while not playing in his best position, and Hulk (11%, 5t, 5c) have done their share of the heavy lifting. With Oscar stepping into his favourite position, Brazil will not just fade away into the dust.

What Brazil will fear is Germany’s deeper pool that has been creating chances. Mueller (21%, 6t, 13c), Ozil (19%, 4t, 13c) and Kroos (14%, 2t, 11c) have the ability to cause a weakened Brazil backline, and any team in the competition, all kinds of problems with their pace, movement and seamless transitions. (ENS/NYT)

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