Neymar out: Can Brazil still win the World Cup without their talisman?

The striker will play no further part in the tournament, but how will the hosts cope?

Brazil will wake up this morning with mixed emotions. The hosts are through to their first World Cup semi-final since 2002 but they will go into the match with Germany without their best player Neymar.

The striker fractured his vertebra in a collision with Colombia defender Juan Camillo Zuniga in Fortaleza last night.

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It was immediately clear that the injury was serious and soon after full-time in Brazil's 2-1 win, the team doctor confirmed that the 22-year-old will play no further part in the tournament.

So will the hosts be able to get over the absence of their talisman?

There is no doubt that Neymar is the first name on Luiz Felipe Scolari's team-sheet. Earlier in the tournament the Brazil manager said of the striker: "The only thing we want is that Neymar is happy playing ball. He's a special player."

 

After the penalty shoot-out victory over Chile it was clear to see the relationship between the two most prominent figures in Brazilian football. With the striker struggling to contain his emotions, Scolari was there providing a shoulder for Neymar to cry into. In return for his paternal nature, Scolari is rewarded with a player who is consistently devastating for the national side.

Neymar and Scolari embrace after Brazil went through on penalties against Chile Neymar and Scolari embrace after Brazil went through on penalties against Chile  

At just 22 years of age, Neymar already has 54 caps and 35 goals, placing him sixth among Brazil's all-time top goal scorers.

During this World Cup, it's been clear that Neymar is the stand-out player in the side. On top of four goals to his name, Neymar also provides the creative spark that lifts the hosts above being an average side. In last night's win over Colombia he provided the corner for Thiago Silva's opener.

Thiago Silva puts Brazil 1-0 ahead in Fortaleza Thiago Silva puts Brazil 1-0 ahead in Fortaleza  

The general consensus is that Brazil are an ordinary side without him. Writing in his column for williamhill.com earlier in the tournament, former England manager Glenn Hoddle warned that Brazil would struggle without the Barcelona player.

"This was not the Brazil of the 1970s or the '80s," he said after hosts' opening win over Croatia. "Luiz Felipe Scolari is playing it very tight and the team are relying on magic from Neymar.

"If Neymar isn't pulling the strings then Brazil look a very ordinary team."

Read more: Match report: Brazil 2 Colombia 1
Player ratings from Brazil 2 Colombia 1

It's difficult to tell exactly how Brazil will cope without him because it's been so long since they did. The number 10 hasn't failed to start for over two years, a spell covering a staggering 38 games in which he has been named in the starting XI every time. At least they did manage to win the last game without him, a 3-1 victory over Denmark on 31 May 2012.

Neymar of Brazil celebrates scoring against Croatia Neymar of Brazil celebrates scoring against Croatia  

Because the former Santos striker is such a special player, Brazil do not have a ready-made replacement at their disposal, but nor do they have anyone who even comes close. Scolari has thus far been starting with a three-man attack consisting of Fred, Neymar and Hulk.

Fred has been described as the worst Brazilian striker ever to take part in a World Cup while where Hulk has looked more of a threat, he's yet to score at the tournament. On the bench are Jo and Bernard. The former was a flop at Manchester City and now plays his football back in Brazil with Atletico Mineiro. Bernard plays for Shakhtar Donetsk and in 13 appearances for La Selecao, has just the one goal.

Fred has one goal in the tournament so far Fred has one goal in the tournament so far  

There is no doubt Brazil will struggle with the absence of Neymar - quite simply they'll be missing their most talented player. But for many in Brazil, victory on home soil is written in the stars. They may not have factored the injury to Neymar in, but with the hosts just 90 minutes away from the dream final at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro all is still to play for.

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