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Neymar, David Luiz & the other big winners from Brazil’s European Tour

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Nov 19, 2014 12:00:00
COMMENT: Gillette Brasil Global Tour takes a look at what players impressed most during the games against Turkey and Austria

BET=MET£75DRAW£42PSG£14.4By Mark Doyle

Brazil’s end-of-year European Tour has gone so well that the only negative is actually a major positive. After leaving his domestic-based players at home to allow them to focus on the conclusion of the Brazilian season, Dunga has now been left with a major selection headache, with the Selecao’s European contingent having flourished in the games against Turkey and Austria.

“I now have more doubts about my team,” the Brazil boss admitted. “The group of players that could be called for the next games has soared.”

Certainly, several members of the 23-strong panel have significantly strengthened their claims on a regular starting berth, while a number of youngers have boosted their hopes of inclusion in next year’s Copa America in Chile.

Below, we take a look at the big winners from the final two Gillette Brazil Global Tour fixtures of 2014 …

FERNANDINHO

Few players were more affected by Brazil’s World Cup semi-final loss to Germany than Fernandinho. The Manchester City midfielder was heavily criticised for his failure to protect his back four as the Selecao were over-run by Joachim Low’s men in Belo Horizonte and has since admitted that it took him a month to get over the experience. However, got over it he has.

Indeed, Fernandinho was back to his brilliant best against Turkey, laying the foundation for a terrific 4-0 win with an all-action display at the base of the Brazilian midfield. Not only did he work tirelessly to win the ball back, he also used it efficiently, even creating the game’s opening goal with a stunning ball in behind the hosts’ defence for Neymar.

Fernandinho was unable to show off his attacking attributes in Vienna on Tuesday night, in what was a far more competitive and physical encounter, but he did display fantastic fighting spirit in the middle of the park, thus proving that he has well and truly recovered from his World Cup trauma.

DAVID LUIZ

Of course, no Brazil player experienced the highs and lows of the 2014 World Cup quite like David Luiz, who went from the ecstasy of scoring a sensational free kick in the quarter-final win over Colombia to the agony of seeing his defence ripped apart in a 7-1 defeat by Germany. The latter loss left the centre-half in tears and it was only a letter from a young Brazilian fan that helped the 27-year-old come to terms with the setback.

Analuz Penna Reale told Luiz that he remained a great player and the Paris Saint-Germain ace proved as much this month. There were some nervy moments in the first half of the win in Turkey but Luiz was particularly impressive in the air in Istanbul and he was even more dominant against Austria. Consequently, it seemed only fitting that he was rewarded for his aerial prowess with a headed goal in Vienna.

WILLIAN

Willian only made his first start for Brazil in the World Cup third-place play-off loss to Netherlands. However, he has been an ever-present in the first team since Dunga returned as coach in July. The Chelsea attacking midfielder netted the decisive goal in September’s 1-0 win over Ecuador but it was only in the clash against Turkey did Willian finally look like he belonged in the Selecao starting line-up. The 26-year-old was excellent on the night, scoring one goal and having a hand in two others. Moreover, the way in which he combined with Neymar bode extremely well for the future.

Willian was less influential against Austria but, with his fantastic turn of pace and quick feet – not to mention his invaluable industry – he was still the pick of Brazil’s attacking players. As he himself said, “I am growing with the Selecao, improving with every game, playing better all the time.”

FILIPE LUIS

Filipe Luis’ sensational performances for Atletico Madrid last season earned him a reported €20 million move to Chelsea during the summer. However, the full-back linked up with the national team this month on the back of just two Premier League starts for Jose Mourinho’s side. Despite his lack of game time at club level, though, Filipe Luis has shone with the Selecao.

Clearly focused on just doing the basics right in the 4-0 win over Turkey, the 29-year-old rarely ventured forward in Istanbul but he did make a number of excellent interventions at the back, particularly when the home side were pressing just before the break.

With his self-belief restored, Filipe Luis looked like his old effervescent self in Vienna. There was a brilliant early block on a goal-bound strike from Florian Klein before he demonstrated his renewed confidence by being in a very advanced position in the closing stages to tee up Roberto Firmino for the winning goal.

ROBERTO FIRMINO

Roberto Firmino was unable to sleep properly for two weeks after receiving his first Brazil call-up. Then, after linking up with the Selecao, the Hoffenheim forward was urged by Dunga to make the most of his unexpected chance to justify his inclusion. “He told me to take this opportunity because there are no contracts here with the national team; that while some players are regulars, the newer guys do not have time to prove themselves.”

If Dunga was trying to see if Firmino was made of the right stuff, the Brazil boss received an emphatic answer at the Ernst Happel Stadion. After making a solid debut as a substitute in Istanbul, Firmino was again sprung from the bench in Vienna and, with just seven minutes remaining, sent a searing strike from outside the area flying into the top corner to earn his country a 2-1 win.

The attacking midfielder admitted afterwards that it was the goal of his dreams. It should at least spare him any more sleepless nights after his next, inevitable, international call-up.

NEYMAR

Neymar’s ability to inspire has never been in doubt. He has been one of the most awesome attacking players on the planet for some time now and his fantastic display against Turkey only enhanced his reputation as a global superstar, with the 22-year-old having his name chanted by the home fans after a thrilling two-goal salvo.

However, there were some lingering doubts over his ability to lead the national team at such a young age. Those have now been dispelled by the way in which he passed the captain’s armband to Thiago Silva in the dying seconds of Tuesday’s win over Austria. The former skipper admitted to having been hurt by the loss of the role, so Neymar’s decision both significant and symbolic.

“I didn’t think about who I would give the captain’s armband,” the forward told reporters. “I decided in the moment like everybody does. It was not about what happened [over the captaincy]. It’s because he was wearing the captain’s armband before, he’s a leader in the field and that’s important to us. That’s why I chose him.”

And that kind of wisdom and maturity is precisely why Dunga chose Neymar as captain. The Barcelona starlet is a class act in every sense.

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