Football

Scolari frets over Gustavo's absence for Colombia game

Brazil coach frets over the absence of suspended Gustavo, may recall Paulinho to partner Fernandinho against Colombia

QUARTER-FINAL

BRAZIL v COLOMBIA

(Saturday, 4am, SingTel mio TV Ch 141 & 
StarHub TV Ch 223)

It is usually Neymar, the creative genius of the Brazil side and the country's most recognisable and highest-paid athlete, who dominates the headlines.

When it's not him, it is Oscar, or perhaps Thiago Silva and David Luiz who get the most attention.

But the man who holds Brazil together arguably more than anyone else at this World Cup is the unassuming holding midfielder Luiz Gustavo, and his absence due to suspension for Saturday morning's (Singapore time) quarter-final against James Rodriguez's Colombia in Fortaleza is a serious blow to the hosts.

"I prefer to leave the fame to the more popular players," said 26-year-old Gustavo, who plays for the wealthy but unfashionable German Bundesliga side Wolfsburg.

"I take satisfaction from the feeling that I have given my best."

The Brazil team's technical director Carlos Alberto Parreira, describes him as "the invisible man of the team with the best defence in the world".

During the group stage, Gustavo won the ball back more than any other Brazil player and did more running than any of his teammates, too, while covering to allow fullbacks Dani Alves and Marcelo to join the attack.

The former Champions League winner with Bayern Munich is the guard-dog in front of the centre-back pairing Silva and Luiz but, in last Saturday's last-16 win over Chile, he picked up his second yellow card of the competition.

As a result, Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari will have to reshuffle his midfield for the second match in succession at the Castelao Stadium.

Having struggled during all three group games, Paulinho was dropped from the side against Chile, making way for Fernandinho, but now he could be set to get the nod ahead of Hernanes and Ramires, and be recalled alongside the Manchester City man.

"A lot of people said that I was downbeat after losing my place in the team, but that wasn't the case. I will keep working hard in training to be at the coach's disposition," said Paulinho, who took centre-stage before the dramatic penalty shootout against Chile, rousing his tense and nervous teammates one by one.

The return of Paulinho would see Fernandinho drop back into the holding role, where he would assume the responsibility of keeping an eye on Rodriguez, one of the players of the tournament so far.

But, if the 29-year-old Fernandinho has all the characteristics of a box-to-box player, he is quick to point out that the more defensive role is one he is quite comfortable with.

Having undertaken that less glamorous job throughout last season at City, giving Yaya Toure the freedom to roam, Fernandinho also performed the same task while partnering Paulinho in Brazil's 5-0 friendly win against South Africa in March.

"When I was called up, it was to play in the holding role," said Fernandinho.

"That is how I played in England throughout last season. For me, it is no problem whatsoever.

"If 'Felipao' opts for somebody else, that is also not a problem. The important thing is to find the balance we need to keep the midfield secure against Colombia.

"When I play in that position, my job is to mark, close down spaces.

"Whoever plays alongside me, we will do our best to cover for the absence of Gustavo." - AFP.

World Cup