Thursday 12 December 2019

David Luiz: I'm ready to take over captain's armband

David Luiz celebrates after Brazil's World Cup quarter-final win over Colombia in Fortaleza. Photo: Jamie McDonald/Getty Images
David Luiz celebrates after Brazil's World Cup quarter-final win over Colombia in Fortaleza. Photo: Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Paul Hirst, Belo Horizonte

David Luiz is happy to take the responsibility of leading Brazil out in their huge World Cup semi-final against Germany.

As well as Neymar, the hosts will be without another key player on Tuesday - captain Thiago Silva, who was handed his second booking of the tournament for a block on Colombia's David Ospina last Friday.

Brazil have appealed against the caution, but they are unlikely to have it rescinded so Luiz will be the man who leads the Selecao in the Estadio Mineirao on Tuesday.

Luiz is renowned for his madcap moments on the pitch, but he takes the responsibility of captaining his nation very seriously.

The hopes of around 200 million Brazilians rest on his shoulders, but he has no qualms about leading the side in Belo Horizonte.

"I'm ready," Luiz said.

"I'm vice-captain and this group is very easy to handle because everyone's very down to earth.

"It won't be a tough job at all."

Luiz has the full support of his team-mate Hulk.

"He's just the best," the Zenit St Petersburg forward said.

"He's very caring and very attentive, no matter who he's with.

"It's not every day that you come across someone like him.

"The whole world knows what he has to offer on the pitch - and to my mind, he and Thiago (Silva) are the best central-defensive partnership in the world - but as his team-mates, we also know what a great person he is too."

Bayern Munich's Dante looks set to replace Silva at the heart of Brazil's defence.

Luiz Felipe Scolari has a far harder decision to make on who should fill the huge gap left by Neymar's absence.

Luis Gustavo will return after suspension, so Fernandinho or Paulinho could be pushed forward in a more advanced position.

Hernanes is another option open to the Brazil coach, but the more likely option would be to introduce either Willian or Bernard.

Given that he hails from Belo Horizonte, Bernard's presence in the starting XI would boost the volume inside the Mineirao, but the 21-year-old thinks that will have little impact on Scolari's thinking on team selection.

"I don't think that will make a difference," Bernard said.

"He has to choose the best option. If I am not the choice we all have to agree with what he is doing.

"It is going to be a special moment - a semi-final - and the players must be aware of their responsibility of wearing the Brazil jersey and representing the Selecao."

Neymar was Brazil's top scorer at the World Cup, finding the net four times.

He will be a big miss for Scolari, but Bernard sees no reason for Brazil to panic.

"We are all sad to have lost a great player but we will try to do our best without him," the former Atletico Mineiro midfielder said.

"We have to be calm. All of the players who are in the squad are here because they have good skills and are capable of doing a good job."

Brazil topped their group, but their performances were inconsistent in the group stages and they only beat Chile in the second round on penalties.

The hosts upped their game against Colombia, but Germany are a step up in opposition.

Joachim Low's men have been the most consistent of the four semi-finalists.

Their only wobble came against Algeria, who threatened to take them to extra-time.

Luiz is expecting a tough match.

Luiz said: "They are a great team with a great philosophy of how to play football.

"They have a lot of great players, a great coach and it will be a great game. It is a World Cup semi-final."

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