Scolari now takes on bigger role for Brazil
07/05/2014 3:40 PM
07/05/2014 3:45 PM
(SportsNetwork.com) - Luiz Felipe Scolari was the last man to deliver a World Cup title to Brazil in 2002, so it only seemed appropriate that he would be charged with duplicating that accomplishment 12 years later on home soil.
Scolari certainly knew that being the head coach of the World Cup favorites and hosts would bring with it an immense amount of scrutiny.
But after Friday's 2-1 quarterfinal win over Colombia, the 65-year-old will now be an even more important part of Brazil's quest to capture the World Cup than he was before.
That is because everything changed for Brazil in the closing minutes of the win when Colombia's Juan Zuniga drove his knee into the back of star forward Neymar, who suffered a broken vertebra and was carried off the field on a stretcher, bringing an end to his World Cup.
Neymar was the face of Brazil's national team and one of the standout players at this tournament, netting four goals and assisting on another to lead the hosts into the semifinals for the first time in 12 years.
The 22-year-old was the main offensive weapon for the Selecao, but now Scolari must find a way to shuffle his side to replace that threat.
Friday's win came at another cost as well as captain and central defender Thiago Silva collected a yellow card in the second half, ruling him out of the semifinal against Germany as well through suspension because of an accumulation of cards.
So as Brazil gets ready to face its biggest challenge of the tournament, it will do so without arguably its two top players, making Scolari's task even more difficult.
Chelsea winger Willian is the natural replacement for Neymar, who was given the freedom to roam all over the field to generate offense.
Players like Hulk, Fred and Oscar have benefited from the space that Neymar creates, but those players will now have to step up and take on a bigger role if Brazil is going to advance.
The absence of Silva is also important because the PSG defender is one of the best in the world at his position, while he also is one of the leaders of the team.
Bayern Munich defender Dante would be the most likely replacement, and his knowledge of the German opposition could actually be important when preparing for Tuesday's semifinal.
Brazil has always been a team known for its attractive style of play, but Scolari is smart enough to understand his side's limitations and he will once again play to his team's strengths against a well-organized German outfit.
This Brazil team is not going to play other sides off the field with a flashy blend of creativity and flair like teams of the past. Rather, Scolari will emphasize a different approach that revolves around grinding out results with little regard for style points.
Brazil has scored three goals in its two knockout-round matches, and all three have come from set pieces and been scored by central defenders.
On Tuesday expect more of the same with set pieces playing a big part of Brazil's attack rather than the mesmerizing build-up play we have come to associate with most Brazilian sides.
But the tactics are just one thing Scolari must sort out ahead of the clash with Germany.
The psychological aspect of this game is something that cannot be overlooked and it is an area that has received increasing amounts of attention.
Prior to Brazil's nervy shootout win over Chile in the round of 16, a number of Brazilian players were seen with tears in their eyes, an indication that the enormity of the moment was too much.
Scolari decided to bring in a psychologist to help his team cope with the immense pressure of the tournament prior to Friday's quarterfinal. And while the team survived another tough test against the Colombians, it will be interesting to see how Neymar's injury and the absence of Silva affects the other players in the side.
Brazil's journey to the semifinals has taken not only a physical toll on the team but also a big emotional one as well, and Scolari will have to make sure that his players are in the proper frame of mind to tackle the task that lies before them on Tuesday.
Players like Fred, Oscar, Hulk, Willian and Dante will each play important roles in determining whether or not Brazil plays in the final at the Maracana on July 13.
Scolari won't play one minute in Tuesday's match, but he will be as important as any player who suits up for Brazil.
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