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5 Brazil players to watch at the World Cup

AP - Sports

SAO PAULO (AP) -- Playing at home, Brazil will be attracting more attention than usual at the World Cup.

Without as many stars as in previous tournaments, Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari will rely on a squad mixed with young talents such as Neymar and some more experienced players such as Thiago Silva.

The era or Ronaldinho, Kaka and Robinho is clearly over for the five-time champions, so it will be up to the promising youngsters to carry the responsibility of giving Brazil the coveted title at home.

Here are five players to watch:

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NEYMAR

He is only 22 years old but will be carrying the hopes of an entire country on the back of his No. 10 shirt.

Neymar is Brazil's biggest star in a squad without a lot of big names, so all eyes will be on him when the hosts begin their campaign against Croatia in the opener on June 12.

He already attracted most of the attention even before his high-profile transfer to Barcelona last year, and with the experience gained by playing alongside the likes of Lionel Messi, his responsibility leading Brazil's national team has only increased.

For a long time Neymar was criticized for his lackluster performances with the national team, but he proved his worth at last year's Confederations Cup, becoming the tournament's most valuable player and leading Brazil to the title. He scored a goal in the 3-0 win over world champion Spain in the final.

To add to the pressure, Neymar will be wearing the No. 10 jersey, the one Pele made famous while winning three World Cup titles for Brazil.

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OSCAR

Oscar, another young talent in the squad, will be in charge of leading Brazil's midfield when the World Cup begins.

The 22-year-old Chelsea player has been a key component for the national team and Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari is betting on the playmaker to be in top form during the World Cup.

Oscar has had a lot of success with Brazil's national team at all levels. He scored three goals in the final against Portugal at the Under-20 World Cup in 2011, and also played at the 2012 Olympics, when Brazil was runner-up to Mexico.

Agile with the ball at his feet and clever setting up his teammates, Oscar will be responsible for feeding Neymar and the rest of Brazilian forwards during the World Cup.

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THIAGO SILVA

Paris Saint-Germain defender Thiago Silva can't really be called a veteran, but he will be one of Brazil's most experienced players at the World Cup.

The 29-year-old defender, who is expected to be the team's captain, has been playing at top European clubs since an early age and is one of the few players who was also in the 2010 World Cup squad. He played for Brazil at the 2008 Olympics and was the team's captain at the 2012 London Games, when the national team lost to Mexico in the final.

He leads a solid Brazilian defense which will also have David Luiz and Dante.

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PAULINHO

Defensive midfielder Paulinho is a key part of Luiz Felipe Scolari's tactical scheme.

Alongside Luiz Gustavo, Paulinho is considered crucial in the first line of protection to the Brazilian defense. But in addition to being a solid defender, Paulinho is also known for his efficiency when attacking.

He scored two goals at the Confederations Cup, including the winner in Brazil's 2-1 victory over Uruguay in the semifinals, and was voted the third-best player at the World Cup warm-up tournament, behind Brazil teammate Neymar and Andres Iniesta of Spain.

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FRED

In an era in which it's hard to find top Brazilian strikers, it will be up to Fred to score the goals for the ''Selecao.''

Although Fred has been plagued by muscle injuries recently, he is Luiz Felipe Scolari's sure pick in attack.

The 30-year-old Fred proved his worth at the Confederations Cup, leading Brazil with five goals, including two in the 3-0 win over world champion Spain in the final at the Maracana.

The former Lyon forward was a youngster when he made it to the World Cup for the first time in 2006 in Germany, but missed out on the 2010 team.

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Follow Tales Azzoni at http://twitter.com/tazzoni

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