Five Brazil players to step into Neymar’s shoes at World Cup
As bitter a blow the loss of Neymar is to World Cup hosts Brazil, Coral still rate Phil Scolari’s side as the 5/2 second-favourites to win the tournament behind Argentina.
Thoughts quickly turn to who, if anyone, can step into the Samba Boys superstar’s shoes and fire them past Germany and into the final. Coral experts pick out five Brazilians who may get the chance or need to step up and help Big Phil bring home the bacon of a sixth World Cup crown.
Diminutive Shakhtar Donetsk winger Bernard, 21, has made two substitute appearances at the finals so far, both coming in the group stage, but these amount to less than an hour of action in which to demonstrate his ability.
A raw talent, he could certainly outstrip Philipp Lahm for pace or, should Germany operate with central defenders at full back, then he will be a threat in behind. Bernard is 7/2 to score anytime in 90 minutes of the semi.
Fluminense frontman Fred has seen Scolari get the best out of him, but there is little evidence of that so far. Although the clever movement inside the area he so expertly displayed at the Confederations Cup last summer has been lacking, Brazil’s main target may not get more service because individual talent Neymar is out.
Big Phil may send his boys out with explicit instructions to knock it into Fred and really stretch a German defence which, Lahm apart, lacks natural full backs. The target man has netted 11 times in 20 appearances under Scolari. Back Fred to do so again here at a tempting 2/1.
Zenit St Petersburg’s athletic attacker Hulk is also definitely in the ‘needs to step up’ bracket, as he has netted just three goals in 19 appearances under Scolari. He is likely to face a physical match-up with Benedikt Howedes, and that means he must use both strength and speed to get change out of the makeshift left back.
Cutting inside may be a worthwhile tactic here, though it would bring both Hulk and Howedes onto their favoured feet. Now would be the best time to try and rediscover his sensational international form of 2012 when he netted six times in 10 caps. Hulk is 11/4 to score against Germany in normal time.
Chelsea star Oscar’s main role for the Samba Boys has been creative. The most forward-thinking of a midfield trio that includes Luiz Gustavo plus a player with box-to-box capabilities, he has a goal and two assists at the tournament so far.
You always feel, however, there is more to come from Oscar. Now there is no Neymar-shaped shadow for him to hide behind. He has the ability to make the difference, and Premier League fans see it week in, week out. Oscar is 10/3 to add to his tournament tally in the semis.
Another Chelsea player, but unlike Oscar this one has had limited opportunities to impress. Scolari’s faith in Neymar and Hulk is to blame for Willian warming the bench. Now that the former is injured, however, he could be thrust into the limelight. Willian is 11/2 to be on target in the semi-final.