PORTO SEGURO, Brazil – Germany midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger thinks Brazil has crossed the line with some of its hard tackling ahead of the World Cup semifinals and is urging referees to keep a closer eye on the host team.
“I am all for a healthy hardness, but some of Brazil’s fouls were over the limit,” Schweinsteiger said. “Brazilians are not only football magicians, hard tackling is part of their game — we have to be careful and so does the referee.”
Brazil committed 31 fouls in its quarterfinal victory over Colombia, which had 23. But it was one particular Colombian foul, by Juan Zuniga, that overshadowed the others because it took out Neymar with a fractured vertebra and knocked the Brazilian superstar out of soccer’s biggest tournament.
Brazil has committed 96 fouls in five matches, compared with Germany’s 57. Brazil players have received 10 yellow cards, six more than German players.
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“Brazil is an outstanding team that plays at the limit of the allowed and will go over the limit if necessary,” Germany assistant coach Hansi Flick told reporters Sunday. He said the absence of Neymar could help galvanize the Brazil squad for Tuesday’s match in Belo Horizonte.
“It’s definitely a loss for Brazil, Neymar has lived up to expectations, but his absence can unite the team more and we expect a very strong opponent,” Flick said.
Schweinsteiger agreed, saying “We are all very sad that Neymar is not playing,” but adding Brazil’s team will bind even more closely “and will try to win the title for Neymar.”
The Bayern Munich midfielder said he thinks Brazil’s coaching staff of Luiz Felipe Scolari and assistant Carlos Alberto Parreira is the team’s biggest strength.
“They are two coaches with a lot of experience who have both won the World Cup,” he said. “They are clever coaches and you need intelligent coaches to win the title.”
Scolari’s job got a lot harder when Neymar was ruled out and captain Thiago Silva was suspended for a match after picking up a second yellow card in the tournament.
The Brazilian confederation is trying to overturn the ban.
FIFA official Delia Fischer said the disciplinary committee is “analyzing material” submitted by Brazil.
Thiago Silva impeded Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina’s attempt to kick the ball downfield during Brazil’s 2-1 victory over Colombia.
Yellow cards traditionally cannot be overturned. The FIFA disciplinary code states cautions can be canceled only in “exceptional circumstances.”
At the 1962 World Cup, Brazil standout Garrincha was sent off in the semifinal victory against host Chile, then was cleared to play in the final. Brazil beat Czechoslovakia 3-1.
These days, no player can be suspended for the final just for receiving a yellow card in the semifinals.
FIFA wipes all single yellow cards from players’ disciplinary records after the quarterfinal round.
Still coping with the loss of its biggest star, Brazil is trying to find ways to remain upbeat about its prospects at the World Cup.
The medical helicopter that took Neymar home with a back injury also carried away much of the country’s hopes for a sixth world title.
“We have to try to be mature in a moment like this,” Brazil defender David Luiz said. “We are sad because we are missing an important player and someone who was trying to fulfill his dream of winning this title.”
One of the tournament’s main attractions, Neymar had been decisive for Brazil until the devastating injury. He was seen as the joyful youngster who was admired and respected by everyone.
A meeting with the team’s psychologist was scheduled with the players Sunday to discuss the striker’s absence.
“We will talk about what needs to be done to make sure the players understand that we can still win the World Cup despite of what happened,” Scolari said.
Brazil doctor Jose Luiz Runco said players were “shocked and saddened” when they heard Neymar would miss the rest of the World Cup.
It will be up to Scolari to find a replacement for the 22-year-old striker.
Instead of using reserve strikers Bernard or Jo, it is likely Scolari will pick one of his midfielders to replace Neymar.
Willian, Hernanes, Bernard and Ramires are considered the most probable options.
Willian took Neymar’s position when Brazil’s reserves played against a local under-20 squad at its training camp.
“You can’t compare Neymar to any other player, he has a lot of quality,” Willian said. “I have a different style. He is more of a striker, scores more goals, while my strong suit is to set up my teammates.”