Filling the void left by Neymar is no easy task, but Santos forward Gabriel is determined to grasp his opportunity when Brazil visit Paraguay for Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier.
Influential captain Neymar is suspended for the contest in Asuncion following an accumulation of bookings after being cautioned in Friday’s 2-2 draw against Uruguay.
The absence of the skipper is a blow to Brazil, who sit third in the CONMEBOL group, but it does present an opportunity to Gabriel.
The 19-year-old says it is impossible to replace Neymar and he will attempt to bring his own qualities to the national team.
“Taking the vacant spot left by Neymar is very good, but I will not replace him,” said Gabriel, who has represented Brazil up to Under-23 level.
“He is our captain and our number 10, I hope to add something different. I’m not replacing Neymar or any other player in the selection.”
Gabriel, who had been on Under-23 duty, admits the call-up to the senior team was unexpected.
“I did not expect it. I was in my room this morning. I was with [Manchester United midfielder] Andreas Pereira and we agreed to sleep more then get coffee,” he added.
“Then the phone rang. I was very happy.”
Head coach Dunga, who is also without centre-back David Luiz due to suspension, will be seeking a response from his side after they threw away a two-goal lead against Uruguay – Neymar’s Barcelona club-mate Luis Suarez scoring on his return to competitive action for Uruguay following his suspension for biting Giorgio Chiellini at the 2014 World Cup.
But they face a tough task against a Paraguay side that are level with Brazil on eight points and who knocked Dunga’s side out of last year’s Copa America on a penalty shootout.
It could have been better for Ramon Diaz’s men had they not conceded a 92nd-minute goal to draw 2-2 against Ecuador on Thursday.
Paraguay have had little time to recuperate from that trip, but veteran goalkeeper Justo Villar is confident the team will be ready to face Brazil.
“We demand to give our all, but we must also be careful and recover to be at 100 per cent,” he said. “We always try to be as rested as possible because the requirements for us are high.”
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