KEIR RADNEDGE in BELO HORIZONTE: Luiz Felipe Scolari is not losing any sleep at night even though his Brazil will be without suspended captain Thiago Silva and superstar striker Neymar in their World Cup semi-final against Germany in the Mineirao.
Both were victims of the quarter-final victory over Colombia: Neymar was carried off with a serious back injury after being clattered by Colombian defender Camilo Zuniga while Silva incurred a second tournament yellow card, hence one-game suspension, for charging into keeper David Ospina.
Bayern Munich centre back Dante is expected to deputise for Silva, against players he competes with and against in the Bundesliga every week, while Bernard, a local favourite though now with Shakhtar Donetsk, is likely to fill Neymar’s slot.
Scolari dismised suggestions that he should feel worried about entering a semi-final without two of his key players.
He said: “I sleep very well. The easiest thing for me to do is to put my head down and sleep at night. We are doing our best, step by step, sometimes not in a very beautiful way, but we are taking all the steps forward so as to be on schedule to play the final.
“What I’ve been telling you [the media] all along is that I have a fantastic group of players. These are players who are handpicked and who know they are special.
“Special means some of them are on the bench for a special moment so, when someone goes on at any specific moment, they become even more special than the one who has been playing because they might make the difference.
“Yes, we feel the competitiveness and the happiness when Neymar plays but we have a team in great condition to overcome the difficulties and go on to the next match. We will play for us, for Neymar, and the goal we have had since the beginning – to reach the final.”
Scolari said the staff and squad had come to terms with “sad phase” following Neymar’s injury and had “left that behind.” But Neymar himself had contributed to that progression.
Felipao added: “The way he spoke to the other players made them understand that he had done his share and now it was everyone else who had to do their share.
“That meant myself, Thiago Silva, the other players and all the Brazilian people because this match is very important, it can take us to the final.”
Scolari, now addressing the fans out beyond the television cameras and radio microphones, said: “We are playing not only for ourselves but for the country. It’s everything we have dream of for every one of us, for Neymar and for the nation.”
He said he had a great deal of respect of Germany because “in all sectors they have a very good team and a very good game plan.”
However, Brazil intended to seize the initiative themselves.
Scolari, manager of Brazil when they beat Germany in the 2002 World Cup Final, added: “We must respect the German team we will do things our way and we will cause them some difficulties. We respect them – but we are going to try to make them respect us.”
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