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Brazil at full strength for Confederations Cup semifinal

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The Canadian Press
6/24/2013 7:22:19 PM
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BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil -- Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari will have all of his top players available for the Confederations Cup semifinal against South American rival Uruguay on Wednesday.

The Brazilian federation said Monday that defender David Luiz and defensive midfielder Paulinho will recover from injuries in time for the decisive match in Belo Horizonte.

Paulinho missed the group stage match against Italy because of a left ankle sprain, while David Luiz was replaced in the first half because of a right leg injury.

Brazil beat Italy 4-2 to win Group A and set up the matchup with the regional rivals. Italy will play World Cup champion Spain on Thursday.

The hosts have won two consecutive Confederations Cups, and three overall. It hasn't won a significant competition since the 2009 title in South Africa.

Paulinho, touted to move to Tottenham when the transfer window opens in July, injured his ankle in Brazil's second game in the World Cup warm-up competition, against Mexico. Doctors said he would have been able to play against Italy, but Brazil had already secured a place in the semifinals in advance and Scolari decided to keep him out so he could fully recover for the semifinal.

Chelsea defender David Luiz had been doubtful to start against Italy after breaking his nose against the Mexicans, but the injury didn't keep him from playing. What kept him from finishing the match was a bruised right leg sustained early in the game. He had to leave the field before halftime and the injury was still bothering him on Sunday.

Reserve striker Bernard injured his right foot in the team's first training session ahead of the match at the Mineirao, but both David Luiz and Paulinho practiced regularly.

They are considered key for the Brazilian defence when the team faces some of the tournament's top strikers in Diego Forlan, Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez.

"They are all very good strikers, they can be decisive," Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar said on Monday. "We will need all the help we can get because we will be playing against a very strong attack. We will have to be very careful because they can decide the match in the blink of an eye."

The Brazilian defence did well in the opener against Japan and in the second match against Mexico, keeping their attackers at bay and not conceding any goals. But without Paulinho and David Luiz against Italy's attack led by Mario Balotelli, the Brazilians conceded two goals.

Brazil hadn't conceded goals in three straight matches, including in the friendly against France just before the Confederations Cup.

"We let in the goals at the right time, they didn't matter much in the end," Julio Cesar said. "We have improved a lot in defence but we know that we still haven't found the right balance. We have to keep working hard to improve in that area as well as in others."

Uruguay is the defending South American champion but Brazil has won the last two times the teams faced each other, both in World Cup qualifiers in 2010.

Brazil celebrates (Photo: Clive Mason/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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