Willian to replace Neymar against Germany? Scolari has options

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After watching Brazil’s training, it appears Chelsea midfielder Willian is the likely candidate to replace the injured Neymar when Brazil take on Germany in the World Cup semifinals.

Let me rephrase this: Willian is likely to take Neymar’s place against Germany.

Nobody can replace Neymar.

The Chelsea attacker played in Neymar’s number-10 slot during a training match against a local Brazilian U-20 side outside Rio de Janeiro, according to Associated Press writer Tales Azzoni.

Brazil won the match 3-0 on goals from Dante as well as Bernard and Ramires.  The latter two are other candidates to start against Germany.

Willian would be a likely frontrunner for the position, although he admitted there would be some differences with himself in the lineup.

[ MORE: Willian, Hulk, and Fred: what Neymar’s absence means for Brazil ]

“You can’t compare Neymar to any other player, he has a lot of quality,” Willian said during a media opportunity. “I have a different style. He is more of a striker, scores more goals, while my strong suit is to set up my teammates.”

The 25-year-old knows himself well, having created a trio of chances in just three substitute appearances so far this World Cup. He scored four goals and grabbed three assists in the Premier League last season, and has nearly twice as many assists as goals over his professional career (44 goals and 78 assists).

According to Squawka statistics, Willian created a chance every 26 minutes this past Premier League season.

In addition, with captain Thiago Silva suspended due to yellow card accumulation – a decision which Brazil is appealing but unlikely to succeed – Willian’s Chelsea teammate David Luiz is the frontrunner to captain the side.

The Blues will have a heavy presence in the match, with Germany’s Andre Schurrle making a heavy impact off the bench in this World Cup and could earn himself a start.

Agent: “There’s no hatred” between Bale, Ronaldo

Gareth Bale & Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid CF
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Gareth Bale doesn’t at all dislike Cristiano Ronaldo — or vice versa — despite what may seem a lukewarm on-field relationship between the two Real Madrid superstars, insists Jonathan Barnett, agent of Bale.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Instead, Barnett insists that the two men with very different personalities have a healthy relationship, and competition, that pushes each Galactico to be the best player he can be.

Barnett, on Bale’s relationship with Ronaldo — quotes from the Guardian:

“They don’t go out eating every night together, but it’s fine. There’s no hatred there. Gareth is a quiet guy. They’re complete opposites. But I think Gareth can learn a little bit from Ronaldo as well, interacting maybe a little bit. But he wants his own life and he lives it. Gareth is a great footballer, he doesn’t want anything more. He has some very good endorsements but his whole life is to be the best footballer in the world. I don’t think he wants to be the best model in the world or the best underwear seller. That’s not him.”

That’s a hilarious closing quote from Barnett, but he knows exactly how some folks are going to interpret it: “Bale thinks Ronaldo loves himself too much.”

[ MORE: Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott ]

There’s nothing better for the ultimate success of a team than healthy, friendly competition between teammates who are spectacularly talented as Ronaldo and Bale. The former will only be around to perform at his current level for so much longer, but at what point does the latter officially take the torch and supplant Madrid’s biggest star, and how accepting will he be of passing that proverbial torch?

Olivier Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott

Olivier Giroud, France
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Is it just me, or does the press really only ever get noteworthy quotes from players during international breaks?

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I suppose it’s not surprising, given Premier League players get away from the mean ole British press, go back to their respective homelands and speak with journalists they’ve likely known since their early playing days, thus feel more comfortable opening up about key issues.

Anyway, today we have Olivier Giroud essentially calling himself out for having lost the starting striker’s job at Arsenal because he’s been outplayed of late by Theo Walcott. As discussed before, this is bad news for Giroud because he’s now falling down the depth chart for France with next summer’s European Championship on the horizon.

[ MORE: Aguero admits he wants Guardiola link-up ]

Giroud, on losing his place at Arsenal — quotes from the Guardian:

“At Arsenal, I am in competition with Theo for the striker position. But he is doing well at the moment, so there is no reason to change.

“Whether it was at Tours, Montpellier or Arsenal, I have never experienced a situation like this, I have often played from the start. I need to take positives and to harden myself mentally. It is something new for me.

“I was in [Walcott’s] place in previous seasons at Arsenal. I imagine what he must have been thinking. But I feel that the coach believes in me.”

Giroud goes on to cast into doubt his own confidence, stating in very certain terms he needs “to believe more in [his] abilities.” Giroud’s always come across as a bit of an existentialist, but it’s always strange to hear players publicly call themselves out — particularly their confidence — as if that’s not going to increase the pressure currently weighing down on them.

[ MORE: Rodgers reportedly chosen to take over at Aston Villa ]

The next eight months are going to be monumentally important in Giroud’s career, as the 29-year-old attempts to prove he’s worth keeping around at Arsenal and deserving of a place in the national team squad for next summer’s EUROs, which are to be played in France.