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Sambafoot Sunday: Ney Problem - Can Brazil Cope Without Neymar?

With Neymar absent, can Brazil's players rally round to win the World Cup without him?

Sambafoot Sunday by James Nalton. The beat goes on...

At the age of 22, Neymar has already accumulated 35 goals from a total of 54 caps for his country. These numbers show that he’s rarely missed a game for Brazil since he broke onto the scene at Santos, making his Seleção debut back in 2010 at the age of 18.

Brazil don’t know what it’s like to be without Neymar, but they’ll have to cope somehow as the expectations should remain the same. The loss of one player shouldn’t lose you a World Cup; just look at the 1962 Brazil team who lost star man Pelé in the second game of the tournament, but still went on to win.

Garrincha assumed Pelé’s role of the star player in 1962, but was helped by Vavá, Amarildo, and a whole host of players who had also won the previous tournament in 1958.

The 2014 version of Brazil will have to draw on similar team unity, but there is no replacement star player as obvious as Garrincha was in 1962, and there are no players in the squad with the experience of winning a previous World Cup.

The only remnant of Brazil’s 2002 win with a realistic chance of being called up this time was Kaká, and prior to the squad announcement there were good cases put forward for him to be picked for his experience alone. Kaká remains a spectator, but the manager Luiz Felipe Scolari was at the helm when they last won the cup, so at least there is some continuity there.

When it comes to the tactics, it’s been so long since Neymar missed a game for Brazil (a friendly versus Denmark in May 2012) that the line-up Scolari uses in his absence is anyone’s guess. Neymar has played much of this World Cup through the middle, hovering in between Fred and the left wing in a free role, and the most natural replacement which comes to mind would be Robinho, but he isn’t in the squad either.

A previous Sambafoot Sunday article guessed that Robinho would be in the 23 for this very reason. He would have offered support to Neymar, as well as that little bit of star quality he can show when on his game.

Hernanes was picked over Robinho as the wildcard player in the squad, and he could well come into the midfield with Oscar pushing further forward. The shackles could be released from Oscar in a side without Neymar, as the Chelsea man spends much of his time for Brazil covering for their star man in midfield, or being pushed out wide to accommodate him.

The most popular replacement for Neymar seems to be Willian, but the hard working forward picked up an injury in training after a clash with Hernanes. However, it seems likely that he’ll be available for the Germany game, and could slot in on the wing with Oscar playing behind Fred.

Perhaps the only player in the squad with the pace and invention of Neymar is Shakhtar Donestk winger Bernard. Bernard spent much of his time in the Ukraine sat on the bench, and this has definitely affected his game coming into the World Cup. Despite lacking a bit of the old sharpness we were used to seeing at Atlético Mineiro alongside Ronaldinho and Jô, he could still provide the extra spark required to replace Neymar.

Another option could be to bring in midfield battler Ramires. His introduction often sees Brazil switch to a 4-3-3, and the return of Luiz Gustavo could give them more options in this formation.

The loss of a star player can often see the remaining players work more effectively as a team unit, something which has been important during this World Cup, but the loss of Neymar will hit Brazil hard. There’s a big chance for the remaining players to step up and become heroes. The suspension of captain Thiago Silva for the Germany game will also hit the team hard, but this is all par for the course in tournament football.

If you want to win a World Cup you need a solid well drilled squad with well rehearsed tactics throughout. The loss of a player here or there shouldn’t be an excuse for not winning, but then again, there aren’t many players like Neymar.


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