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Ready to help fill the Neymar void, Willian downplays injury concerns

Ronald Martinez

They may not have been overly impressive, but Brazil's march to the World Cup title was rolling along quite inevitably... until Juan Zuniga's knee fractured a vertebra in Neymar's back* and sent a whole nation into a cycle of worry and anxiety.  Add to that Thiago Silva's suspension for an entirely needless yellow card that even that most reluctant of referees couldn't possibly not give, and suddenly Brazil's prospects are looking a bit less rosy.

* By the way, how unlucky and unlikely is that injury?  There may be a witch-hunt out for Zuniga, but really, that sort of challenge happens fairly often and this is certainly the first time I've ever seen or heard of somebody fracturing a vertebra because of it.  Absolute craziness.

While Thiago Silva's replacement in Tuesday's semifinal against Germany is a fairly obvious choice in Bayern Munich's Dante, Neymar's replacement is not, and not just because his unique skill-set is irreplaceable.  Any three of Willian, Bernard, or even Ramires could conceivably start in place of Brazil's talisman, though my money's on Willian.  Then again, had I been a betting man, I would've lost a few similar bets already thinking that Willian would start for the mostly ineffective Hulk.  That being said, Brazil's captain agrees.

"I'm sure we have good spare parts. I believe very much in Willian, who has almost the same features as Neymar and believe in this moment he will fill the gap very well. This is where we have to show the strength of the group."

-Thiago Silva; source: Goal

That's certainly high praise for the Chelsea man, one perhaps born more out of hope than reality.  Willian brings many things to the table, but individual Neymar-esque brilliance isn't one of them.  A more likely scenario may be that he takes over the Oscar role (at which he's been even better than Oscar himself at times last season) and Oscar gets thrust into the limelight as Brazil's leading man.  After last year's Confederations Cup and the opening match against Croatia, it wouldn't be the first time he put Brazil on his back.

This plan could've been scuppered by the hip injury that Willian picked up yesterday.  Fortunately, it sounds like that won't be much a problem.

"I am feeling great. I was hurt on my left side in training yesterday (Saturday) and it bothers me a bit but it is nothing significant and it won't stop me training today."

-Willian; source: FIFA

Go on, Willian!  Make us proud.

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