TERESõPOLIS, Brazil- Willian and Bernard, the two leading contenders to replace Neymar in Brazil’s World Cup semi-final line-up against Germany insisted on Sunday that the team can still win the competition without their star player.
“Neymar sets the standard for us. He is capable of deciding any game, so playing without him will be difficult,” said Chelsea midfielder Willian.
“We know the quality that we have. We are all very sad at losing him but we are now even stronger after what happened and we can continue to pursue our dream.”
Neymar’s tournament ended in tears on Friday when he suffered a fractured vertebrae in his back after a crunching challenge from Juan Zuniga in the 2-1 quarter-final win against Colombia.
Willian, who has made all three of his appearances at this World Cup from the bench, picked up a knock in training on Saturday in a clash with Hernanes, but said that it will not prevent him from being ready against Germany.
However, he warned that fans should not expect him to act as a direct replacement for the Barcelona star.
“You can’t compare Neymar with any other player. He has so much quality,” he said.
“I have a different style even if we have some similarities, like my pace. Neymar is a forward, while I am more of a midfielder, someone who creates chances for others.”
Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari could opt to hand a first start in the competition to diminutive Shakhtar Donetsk winger Bernard.
“We were all very sad at the situation and also because Neymar was very sad. Of course the whole group has felt his loss,” said the 21-year-old.
“He is a big loss not just as a player but also as a person. He is always smiling and saying positive things.”
The introduction of Willian or Bernard could see Oscar moving into a central role behind striker Fred, but Scolari has several options.
He could play with three central midfielders, maintaining Paulinho in the side while also welcoming back Luiz Gustavo after suspension.