Premier League star Willian has called up by Brazil ahead of Real Madrid’s Vinicius and Champions League finalist, Lucas Moura as replacement for Neymar after the PSG attacker was forced out of Tite’s plans for the Copa America.
Neymar, who is Brazil’s best player, suffered an ankle injury in the first half of the team’s friendly victory over Qatar on Wednesday. The former team captain spent majority of thr second half of the season on the sidelines after the recurrence of a toe injury. However, he had been cleared to help his country win the 2019 edition of the Copa America on home soil.
Lucas Moura, who helped Tottenham Hotspurs to the Champions League final, had been tipped to replace the former Barcelona man in Tite’s squad. Another player who was tipped to replace Neymar was Real Madrid’s teenage sensation and revelation of the season, Vinicius Junior. However, coach Tite decided to go with the experience of Willian who represented Brazil at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
“The attacker Willian, of Chelsea, has been called up by the Brazil national team and will play the 2019 Brazil Copa America,” the Brazilian Football Confederation confirmed in a statement released on Friday. “He has been called to replace Neymar, who was dropped from the squad following the friendly against Qatar.”
Willian got his senior debut for Brazil in November 2011 and has gone on to make 65 appearances in the Selecao, scoring eight goals. He also represented his country in two World Cups, in 2014 on home soil and at Russia 2018, and with Neymar’s withdrawal he is the third most experienced player in Tite’s squad, behind captain Dani Alves (107 caps) and Thiago Silva (78).
Willian will now have to return to his native Brazil from vacations in Israel, after missing out on Tite’s original 23-man call-up. The Chelsea winger is a devout Christian and he has been enjoying his stay in the Holy Land. Willian was baptized in River Jordan while he took a break from contract talks with Chelsea.
The skillful winger posted pictures of his baptism on his social media accounts. His team mates and friends including Lucas Moura and Diego Costa Costa. Willian wrote the caption: “Joy in reaffirming my baptism, in a place that I consider extremely important. Jordan river!”
Brazil kick off their Copa America campaign in Group A on Friday June 14 against Bolivia, before going on to face Venezuela and Peru in the tournament’s opening phase.