Brazilian Neymar is out for the 2022 World Cup group stage after picking up an injury in the 2-0 win over Serbia. You see why the Selecao is worried.
The last time Neymar was sidelined for even a few World Cup games, the talismanic figure suffered a back injury against Colombia in 2014. The nation mourned the loss of their No.10, clutching his shirt as the national anthem sounded ahead of the semi-final against Germany. We all know what happened next.
Now that Neymar is out, Brazil needs a plan. The team is deeper and stronger than it was eight years ago – and there are stars ready to step up.
1. Bruno Guimaraes
The obvious replacement. Bruno was Newcastle United’s complete midfielder, dangerous forwards and backs – and he may have been unlucky to be benched for the first game of the campaign.
But Danilo is also out for Brazil, meaning he’s another lightweight player in midfield as the full-back used to come in when the team had possession of the ball. Sure, Dani Alves can do it, but he’s 39 now. Surely Bruno could often dynamism and musculature in the center of the park?
On the subject of strengthening the midfield, Fred has been a favorite of Tite for a while now. Another Brazilian perhaps angling for a start, he certainly has a relationship with Casemiro at club level.
Will Fred be a deeper option in the team? Maybe. He will be looking to consolidate that midfield and drift further to take long shots on goal, as he did against the Serbs.
Tite might want to push hard like he did in the first game. The advantage of the attackers at his disposal is that they all like to drift and piggyback on the final third.
Gabriel Jesus has been a superb ball winner in Arsenal’s attack this season, coming out of the penalty area to take up a No.10 position to help with the dirty work. He and Richarlison in a sort of front two could provide the energy and work-rate that could flood a more passive side.
Rodrygo looked electric when he came on for Brazil. Behind Vinicius Jr in the pecking order for club and country, the winger is a creative spark with an innate ability to step in when needed.
Raphinha started on the right for Tite, but he could work well more like an inside in the full-throttle Brazilian system, with Rodrygo wider. Seems a bit too many cooks but this is Brazil…
Manchester United’s Antony has been criticized by some for lacking the explosiveness a winger needs in 1v1. Well, if he plays as a No.10 he might be able to offer the same kind of cunning and creativity in a different berth.
Antony as a direct replacement for Neymar could be a good move. He has a great awareness of what is going on around him and with another £80million-plus winger creating overloads, Brazil could stifle their opponents in the final third.
6. Gabriel Martinelli
Perhaps the least likely. Gabriel Martinelli probably didn’t think he would make it to this tournament, let alone start, but stepping onto the pitch against Serbia proves Tite values him.
Martinelli likes the ball at his feet as much as running behind it and his intensity could be just what Brazil need to kill a game quickly. A little soon to trust him? Maybe – but Brazil hope it’s just a temporary solution with Neymar back soon…