There are few soccer nations that immortalize their icons of the game quite like Brazil. Ahead of this World Cup, we were treated to imagery of Brazilian greats gone, reminded of their stature in the in the history of the Selecao. Garrincha, Pele, Carlos Alberto, Zico, Socrates, Romario, Rivaldo and Ronaldo: all giants of soccer and Gods of the national team.
It was widely assumed that the next man in that list was set to be Neymar. The 22-year-old bore the expectations of a fanatical host nation on his shoulders with a swagger, netting four goals in Brazil’s opening five games and sprinkling his stardust on what were some pretty average team performances. He was the talisman, the mercurial genius that would galvanize this group to glory.
But if Brazil are going to seize that elusive sixth World Cup win—the Hexa—then it’ll be without the Barcelona man, who’s tournament was cruelly curtailed by injury. Now, while this team have typically shifted the responsibility onto Neymar throughout the competition, there’s a marvelous chance for another player to etch themselves into the illustrious history of the Selecao. And the most obvious candidate is Oscar.
The Chelsea man has been shifted around this Brazil team to accommodate for the majesty of Neymar, but with the golden boy out, Oscar should return to his preferred orthodox No. 10 role. It’s from that position that he’ll face the unenviable task of replicating—perhaps even bettering—the contribution of the stricken hero.
But in the semi-final against Germany, don’t expect that contribution to come with the same flourish that Neymar brings, for stylistically, he and Oscar are polar opposites. The Barcelona man plays with a flamboyance incomparable to many, but the Chelsea midfielder—while still a supreme technician—is a lot more understated in his work.
And perhaps against this extremely capable German outfit, that is exactly what the Selecao need. The host nation has yet find their fluid best prior to this last-four clash and without Neymar, they’re very unlikely to do so. If Brazil are to triumph in these last two games then the victories won’t be a product of Joga Bonito, they’ll be centred around a physical and diligent philosophy.
It’s a style that despite his sleight somatotype, will compliment Oscar. To look at, he isn’t a player you’d expect to be dynamic and industrious, but he is. Despite having failed to sparkle as an attacking force since the opening game of the tournament, the 22-year-old has never waived his defensive duties.