With all of Brazil's national hand-wringing over the loss of Neymar for Tuesday's World Cup showdown with Germany, the host country's citizens might want to use a finger or two on another missing luminary.
Nobody is making the case yet that the Energizer Bunny-like Neymar, out with a broken back bone, is Planet Futbol's finest forward. On the topic of baddest defender, though, Thiago Silva is part of the discussion. If Brazil loses, he will be prominently discussed as culpable, having been suspended for a second yellow card on the most inexcusable in a flood of fouls in the previous match.
His replacement is no slouch. The veteran Dante, 30, has logged five seasons in the esteemed German league Bundesliga, the past two with defending champion Bayern Munich. Germany will need no crash-course scouting of Dante; seven of its players are teammates in the league. Most, if not all, will start in the semifinal match in Belo Horizonte starting at 1 p.m. Pacific.
Dante brings some welcome height to the lineup. He stands 6 feet 2, presumably not counting the Afro-styled hair that makes hat-wearing a challenge, which suits him well for the floaters aimed at Germany's tall players in the box.
[Updated at 1:01 p.m.: Brazil, as expected, replaces suspended defender Thiago Silva with Dante, whose professional team connection adds intrigue. He plays for Bayern Munich, which is extensively represented on the German side.
Up front, coach "Big Phil" Scolari opts for Bernard over Willian to step into the massive shoes of the injured Neymar. Bernard likely will operate as a left winger. Most pre-match speculation leaned toward Willian to get the nod.
Germany is staying the course with its lineup. It includes Miroslav Klose, the aging prolific scorer who came off the bench during group play.]
Silva and David Luiz, Brazil's more familiar hirsute defender, gave the host team one of the most formidable back lines in the tournament. Dante represents no major drop-off, but he is assigned the task of shutting down German goal-getters such as Miroslav Klose. What's more, he has so far watched every minute of Brazil's Cup campaign from the sideline.
No Neymar likely means fewer chances at the other end, so Brazil's defense might have to aim for nothing less than a shutout.