Luiz Felipe Scolari is convinced Brazil can beat Germany and make it through to a dream World Cup final despite Neymar’s absence.
Brazil will take on Germany at the Estadio Mineirao on Tuesday without their best player and leading scorer, who was ruled out of the World Cup after fracturing a verterbra in last week’s win over Colombia.
An incredible wave of sadness followed the news that Neymar had been ruled out.
The players shed tears and many of the 200 million football-mad Brazilians feared how their team would cope without their talisman.
But Scolari has moved on from the incident and he has challenged the rest of his squad to reach the Maracana final for their injured star.
“He has done his share. Now it’s up to us to do our share,” the Brazil coach told a press conference on the eve of the match.
“This match we’ll be playing not just for ourselves but for our country, for everything we’ve ever dreamed of, but also for Neymar and everything he’s done for us.
“Within our group, we’ve accepted that. We’ve left our sad phase behind and we’re focusing on other things.”
Scolari had asked Neymar to come to Belo Horizonte for the semi-final, but a spokesman for the Brazil football confederation said the forward would not attend the match and would instead continue his recuperation in Sao Paulo.
Scolari used several different replacements for Neymar and he also changed his formation during training, presumably to keep the gathered media and the Germans guessing about how his team would line up in Belo Horizonte.
Willian and Bernard are the two leading contenders to fill Neymar’s position, but Hernanes and Jo are two others who could be drafted in.
Scolari rejected out of hand two opportunities to name his starting XI in his pre-match press conference.
Whoever he does pick, Scolari is sure they will be up to the task.
“Neymar is one of our references and one of the best players in the world, but we have another 22 players who have been hand-picked and capped because we know they are special,” the former Chelsea manager added.
“Those guys who come in are special. They can make a big difference.
“This is what we are conveying to our players. We will miss Neymar, but we have a team who can overcome the difficulties and go on into the next round.
“That’s the goal the group has had since the beginning: to qualify for the final.”