• World Cup

Chelsea link could rescue Brazil

ESPN staff
July 7, 2014
Replacing the irreplaceable

Brazil's Chelsea connection could provide the answer to the problems they have been presented with by the loss talisman Neymar to a broken back.

Manager Luiz Felipe Scolari is expected to pick Willian in place of the headline-grabbing star whose injury has dominated the build-up to the hosts' World Cup semi-final against Germany on Tuesday.

Neymar felt paralysed

  • Luiz Felipe Scolari has revealed that Neymar had no feeling in his legs after suffering the injury that ended his participation in the 2014 World Cup
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Willian may be less of a goal threat for Brazil but he claims he has an understanding with club and international team-mate Oscar and can bring the benefits of having worked with Jose Mourinho to the team.

"Obviously there is no comparing Neymar," Willian, who has declared himself fit for the game, said. "He is the benchmark for the Selecao, the guy who takes the responsibility to decide games. I have some similarities with him, like speed and dribbling capacity, but he is a striker and I am a midfielder who sets up players.

"He scores a lot of goals but I am someone who serves his team-mates. I have my qualities and I am ready and prepared if selected.

"We [Willian and Oscar] are very familiar with each others' game, so if Scolari chooses me I don't think that will be any problem because we have worked together at Chelsea. We played a lot of games together, me more to the right, Oscar to the middle but free to move around."

Willian believes the incident surrounding Neymar has brought Brazil's squad together - and now they're ready to lift the trophy for the stricken star.

"Neymar is a benchmark player for Brazil," Willian said. "He is a player who takes responsibiity on himself and can change games in half a second. Playing without him will be difficult but we know just how resilient our squad is. We are all very sad but we are now even stronger.

"What has happened to him has given us the strength to pursue our dream, get to the final and become champions."

Regina Brandao, the sports psychologist, was due to sit down with the Brazil squad after dinner on Sunday night for another session, getting their minds right for the semi-final after the drama of the last few days.

But after working with Chelsea manager Mourinho last season, Willian should already be relatively mentally tough. He certainly thinks that playing-wise, he has improved.

"He [Mourinho] always demands a lot," the midfielder said. "I've learnt a lot, especially in defence. "I am feeling great. I was hurt on my left side in training on Saturday and it bothers me a bit, but it is nothing significant."

The Chelsea connection may not end with Willian and Oscar on Tuesday, though, with former defender David Luiz set to skipper the side if Thiago Silva's appeal challenging the yellow card - and, therefore the ban it led to - he received against Colombia fails.

Willian says he has worked well with Brazil and Chelsea team-mate Oscar © PA Photos
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