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Brazil feeling lost without Neymar at World Cup

Published Jul. 7, 2014

BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil — Still coping with the loss of its biggest star, Brazil is trying to remain upbeat about its prospects at the World Cup.

The medical helicopter that took Neymar home with a back injury also carried away much of the country's hopes for a sixth world title. But the tournament isn't over, and Brazil has to focus on Tuesday's semifinal against Germany.

"We have to try to be mature in a moment like this," Brazilian defender David Luiz said. "We are sad because we are missing an important player and someone who was trying to fulfill his dream of winning this title."

One of the tournament's main attractions, Neymar was decisive for Brazil until the injury late in Friday's 2-1 quarterfinal win over Colombia. He was crucial on the field and an essential part of the group trying to win the title at home. He was seen as the joyful youngster who was admired and respected by everyone.

A meeting with the team's psychologist was scheduled with the players Sunday to discuss the striker's absence because of a broken vertebra, suffered on a tackle late in Friday's game.

"We will talk about what needs to be done to make sure the players understand that we can still win the World Cup despite of what happened," coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said.

Brazil doctor Jose Luiz Runco said the players were "shocked and saddened" when they heard Neymar would miss the rest of the World Cup.

"It's sad because we know how hard he worked to be here with us," striker Fred said. "We know how important he was for us. But we have to look at our group and realize that it still has a lot of quality."

Scolari hinted in training that midfielder Willian is his first option to replace Neymar against Germany. Willian took Neymar's position when Brazil's reserves played against a local under-20 squad at its training camp outside Rio de Janeiro.

Making matters worse for Scolari is that captain and central defender Thiago Silva will also be out because of a yellow card suspension.

One way for Brazil to try to stay positive might be to look to its past. This is not the first time the Selecao Brasiliero lost its best player to injury in the World Cup. It happened to Pele, and Brazil still won the title with wing Garrincha helping to fill the void.

"I was also injured during the 1962 World Cup in Chile, and I was out for the rest of the tournament," Pele said. "But God helped Brazil continue on to win the championship."