Neymar’s tournament-ending injury has left most Brazil fans in a state of shock, but there is at least one Seleção diehard - and a prestigious one at that - who is continuing to look on the bright side.
The fan in question is former Brazil idol Ronaldo, who knows only too well how the world’s great teams can make up for the absence of a key player by reinventing themselves. O Fenômeno saw that for himself in the Final of the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan 2002™, when Germany gave Brazil the sternest of tests despite the absence through suspension of their midfield powerhouse Michael Ballack.
Though the Brazilians prevailed on that occasion, the fight put up by a supposedly weakened Germany side gives Ronaldo reason to believe that Brazil can more than hold their own without Neymar when the two nations meet in the semi-finals on Tuesday.
“Everyone got a little scared with the injury he picked up, and there’s no question Brazil have lost a star and their main goal threat,” Ronaldo told FIFA.com. “We have to press on, though. It’s a big match between two of world football’s great teams and I don’t see them as clear favourites. A Seleção are always favourites, against any team in the world.”
Ronaldo’s unshakable optimism is also founded on the role that Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari will play in the build-up to the game, not just in getting the tactics right but in firing up his players.
“I know O Felipão very well,” said the ex-striker. “He’s a great motivator, and I’m sure that he’s pushing his team on at this very moment in time, especially the player who’s going to be coming in for Neymar.”
The joint-highest scorer in the history of the competition, tied on 15 goals with Germany veteran Miroslav Klose, Ronaldo added: “I think he’s got the team under control and he’s going to use every weapon at his disposal to put the strongest side together. I’m sure that the player who’ll replacing Neymar will be very determined to make people forget he’s not there.”
Doing his level best to boost Brazilian morale, Ronaldo signed off with a confident prediction: “Brazil are going to win 1-0.”