Paulinho will return to Brazil’s midfield as the Selecao face neighbors Uruguay in Belo Horizonte on Wednesday for a place in the Confederations Cup final. The Corinthians star, who is being heavily linked with a move to Tottenham, missed the 4-2 win over Italy on Saturday with a sprained right ankle, but trained normally on Tuesday. Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari revealed that Paulinho will come back into the side in place of Hernanes, with the rest of the side set to be unchanged.
The match will take place against a backdrop of further protests about the mishandling of spending by the Brazilian government. And Scolari believes the match with Uruguay has importance not just for his side but in being a positive instrument for change in the country as a whole.
"This is a crucial moment for the Brazilian team. But we need to take one more step forward, to defeat Uruguay and reach the final," Scolari told the BBC. "Brazilians have been with us and everything we have done to build a better country will not be in vain if we can keep this run up.
"We must find a way of working together, not fighting with each other. Maybe in five or ten years' time we can have a better country."
But Uruguay will not be afraid of upsetting the home crowd, as they so famously did in Brazilian soccer’s darkest hour to lift their second World Cup in 1950. However, to do so again, it is likely that Oscar Tabarez’s side will have to show an improvement from their form so far in the tournament and, indeed, from their performances over the last two years. Since earning their spot in the Confederations Cup by lifting the Copa America two years ago, not much has gone right for la Celeste.
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As they struggle to qualify for the next World Cup, there have been calls for younger players to be brought into a side that remains largely unchanged from the team that reached the semifinals in South Africa. One of that older generation, Diego Forlan, realizes that their international careers are on the line if the team does not perform.
“We know that if the results don’t come, then it’s only natural there should be a change of generation,” he told FIFA.com. “If things go well, though, or at least a little bit better, then that handover will be delayed. Football’s a merciless business. If you don’t win, it’s all change. As simple as that.”
After a much-changed side beat Tahiti 8-0, Tabarez is set to revert to the lineup that got a vital 2-1 win over Nigeria in their second match. That means Forlan being joined in a potentially potent -- although one that has yet to fully fire – attack alongside Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani.
G: Julio Cesar
D: Dani Alves, Thiago Silva, David Luiz, Marcelo
M: Paulinho, Luiz Gustavo
Hulk, Oscar, Neymar
D: Pereira, Lugano, Godin, Caceres
M: Gonzalez, Arevalo, Rodriguez
F: Cavani, Suarez, Forlan
Where to watch: The Confederations Cup semifinal will kick-off from the Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte at 3 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by ESPN, with a live stream available on ESPN3.