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Duarte: Brazil have to face reality

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 Posted by Jack Lang
Jul 4, 2014

Five Brazil players who must step up

The ESPN FC World Cup tonight panel discuss how Brazil will cope with the loss of their superstar.

Rarely can a victory feel so much like a defeat.

Brazil secured safe passage to the semifinals of their own Copa das Copas on Friday evening with a 2-1 win over Colombia but were left counting the cost in terms of personnel.

Centre-back Thiago Silva, who responded to the furor over his tears against Chile with the opening goal, would later pick up a silly booking, meaning he is suspended for Tuesday's last four encounter with Germany in Belo Horizonte.

That seemed bad enough, but much worse was to come in the second half when Neymar -- Brazil's one shining light for much of this tournament -- went down following a clumsy challenge by Juan Zuniga.

The Barcelona star appeared to be in pain as he was stretchered off, but few were prepared for the news that emerged after the final whistle: Neymar had fractured a vertebra and will miss the rest of the World Cup. A nation's pupils dilated, Brazil must now seek to win the competition without their best player and talisman.

While the emotional fallout will continue in the coming hours and days, there are practical matters at hand for Luiz Felipe Scolari, who must replace both his captain and top scorer on Tuesday.

Here are five players who will need to step up to the plate if Brazil hope to reach the final at the Maracana on July 13:

Dante

The Bayern Munich man is the most obvious replacement for Thiago Silva. Positionally sound and good with the ball at his feet, he certainly has the talent to step into the fray, while he will also be familiar with Germany's attacking players, having spent much of his career in the Bundesliga.

Brazil will, of course, miss the Thiago Silva-David Luiz partnership, which has remained undefeated over 26 games, but Dante is more than capable of smoothing things over at the back.

David Luiz

Whoever takes the armband against Germany, David Luiz will be the de facto captain of the side. The defender is one of the most passionate, forceful characters in the dressing room and will be even more determined to make his voice heard in the absence of two senior teammates.

He will also need to lead by example just as he did against Colombia with a rousing first-half run and a wonderful free-kick after the break that sealed the win for the Selecao. While still subject to criticism in Europe, Luiz is a giant in Brazil.

Oscar

A key attacking force for Brazil at last summer's Confederations Cup, Oscar has been asked to perform a less glamorous duty this summer. With Neymar playing more centrally, the Chelsea midfielder has tended to start on the flanks, spending as much time defending as contributing farther forward.

Oscar scored in Brazil's opening-game win versus Croatia but has since had a quiet World Cup.

As a result, he has yet to produce the performances of which everyone knows he is capable. Perhaps now he will be granted a central berth and greater freedom.

Willian

If Oscar does indeed move into the hole, it is likely that Willian will get his first start of the tournament out wide. The 25-year-old impressed in the pre-tournament friendlies against Panama and Serbia and can feel slightly aggrieved not to have played a more significant role in Brazil's campaign thus far. Now might be his moment to shine.

Fred

With Neymar sidelined, the goals will have to come from somewhere else. Fred has had a poor tournament so far, failing to get involved with Brazil's buildup play and lacking his usual ruthlessness in front of goal. However, with Jo the only other striker in the squad, he remains the most likely to pick up the slack. Scolari must hope that he raises his game against Germany.

Jack Lang

Jack Lang writes about football (mainly Brazilian) for a number of websites and publications, including The Mirror, Yahoo! Eurosport, When Saturday Comes and UEFA.com. You can find links to all his articles on his blog, Snap, Kaká and Pop!.

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