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Absence of Brazil's 'invisible man' gives Scolari headache

AFP
Brazil's defender Dani Alves (L) and Brazil's midfielder Luiz Gustavo (C) speak with British referee Howard Melton Webb during extra-time of the match between Brazil and Chile at the Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte on June 28, 2014
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Teresópolis (Brazil) (AFP) - 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 is the unassuming holding midfielder Luiz Gustavo, and his absence due to suspension for Friday's World Cup quarter-final against James Rodriguez's Colombia in Fortaleza is a serious blow for the hosts.

"I prefer to leave the fame to the more popular players," says the 26-year-old of 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, meanwhile, describes him as "the invisible man of the team with the best defence in the world."

During the group stage, Luiz Gustavo won the ball back more than any other Brazil player and did more running than any of his team-mates too while covering to allow full-backs Daniel Alves and Marcelo to join the attack.

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

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

- Paulinho to return? -

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 still took centre-stage before the dramatic penalty shoot-out against Chile, rousing his tense and nervous team-mates 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 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 Luiz Gustavo."

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