Scolari in quandary over who replaces Neymar

FORTALEZA, Brazil - Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari faces a potentially make or break decision as to who replaces injured star Neymar in his starting line-up for the World Cup semi-final with Germany on Tuesday.

The moment two minutes from the end of normal time in the quarter-final that Colombian Juan Camilo Zuniga kneed Neymar in the back fracturing a vertebrae could come to be seen as the action that cost the hosts their sixth World Cup.

However, Scolari - who guided Brazil to the 2002 trophy - cannot dwell on the loss but move on and decide who he can replace the 22-year-old with and that is no easy task.

For Neymar had all but singlehandedly got the team this far with four goals, two well weighted corners that resulted in goals and a nerveless fifth penalty in the last 16 shootout with Chile which turned the pressure onto Chilean defender Gonzalo Jara who missed his and allowed Brazil to progress.

While Oscar and David Luiz - who scored a superb goal with a long range freekick against Colombia - can take care of the dead ball kicks, the two names that are mentioned as favourites to replace Neymar in the starting XI are Bernard and Willian.

"Overall Willian and Bernard have the same characteristics as Neymar," commented Brazil captain Thiago Silva, who has also complicated Scolari's plans for the semi-final as he is suspended after picking up a booking against Colombia.

Bernard replaced Willian, when he left for Chelsea last year, at Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk costing them 25 million euros (S$42.36 million) but the 21-year-old is light of frame and prone to run all over the place whereas Willian remains in position and is a specialist at delivering the killer final pass.

If Scolari baulks at handing either player the responsibility of the position which he had created specifically for the team's best player - and neither would fit that bill even in Neymar's absence - then the coach could toughen up his midfield at the expense of creativity.

There he would be helped with the return of Luiz Gustavo, who was suspended for the Colombia game, alongside fellow enforcers Fernandinho, who gave James Rodriguez a hard time of it in the quarter-final, and Paulinho.

Fred, who had yet another poor match, would be asked to drop back a little with the musclebound Hulk and the more dainty Oscar supplying him from the wings.

The man himself Scolari had not yet given it much thought as he absorbed the shock of losing the man around whom he has effectively built his dreams of delivering the World Cup at home.

"I need time to think about it, that I see how the others recover and after that I will make my decision."