sport

Scolari: For Neymar and Brazil

Luiz Felipe Scolari remains confident Brazil can beat Germany in Tuesday’s World Cup semi-final despite the absence of star player Neymar.

Neymar was ruled out of the rest of the competition after fracturing a vertebra in last week's quarter-final win over Colombia.

Despite sadness within the country regarding Neymar's tournament-ending injury, Scolari has now challenged the remainder of the Brazil squad to send the team through to Sunday's final in the Maracana.

Speaking ahead of the clash with Germany at the Estadio Mineirao, the Brazil boss said: "He has done his share. Now it's up to us to do our share.

"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.

"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.

"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."

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 had asked Neymar to come to Belo Horizonte for the semi-final but a spokesman for the Brazil football confederation said he was remaining in Sao Paulo to continue his recuperation.

The last time Brazil won the World Cup was 12 years ago, when Scolari led the Selecao to victory over Germany.

Scolari has since tasted defeat against the three-time world champions with Portugal, so he wants to get back to winning ways in the semi-final.

"We won in 2002 with Brazil but I lost in 2008 with Portugal. And then I lost the third/fourth place play-off in 2006, also with Portugal, so I have two defeats and one victory," he said.

"In order to tie this up I have to win on Tuesday, so I hope Brazil play well, win and the memories are very good."

Despite the hopes of a nation being on his shoulders, 'Big Phil' insists he is not feeling the pressure.

"I sleep very well," he said. "The easiest thing for me is to put my head down and sleep.

"I have a fantastic group of players and we have been watching Germany's games too.

"We've had scouts at their last two matches and our scouts have instructed us how we can beat them.

"When you have a team working with you, a team of assistants, you feel more at ease making choices.

"I know the starting line-up. When they walk on to the field, you will see why I made those choices. I want to tell the Brazilian people: we're doing our best, and doing what we think is necessary.

"Sometimes not in a very beautiful way, but we're moving forward. One step at a time towards the final."

Tactics will be vital and Scolari admitted he could deploy three defensive midfielders against the Germans to counter the threat of players like Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thomas Muller and Mario Gotze.

Operating with three deep midfielders would go against Brazil's tradition of all-out attack, but Scolari h as told the nation to trust him in what he is doing.

"Playing with three defensive midfielders is an option," he said. "If I have two players in there, the full-backs will have less freedom but I might be able to add something that imposes a bit more damage on Germany too."