For Brazilian players, a chance to suit up in canary yellow shirts at home is the ultimate dream.
Come this summer during the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, 23 players will have that chance. Luiz Felipe Scolari, the manager of the Brazilian national team and a World Cup winner in 2002, will have to draw up the final 23, but with every passing international game, that list becomes clearer and clearer.
The shirts are ready to be pressed and stamped with the names and numbers of the Seleção; that’s not a turn-of-phrase – Nike revealed the new Brazil shirts to be worn at the FIFA World Cup!
Last week, Brazil beat Chile 2-1 at the Rogers Centre in Toronto. That match featured a few familiar faces who haven’t been a part of the roster for a few months, including Maicon and Robinho. Interestingly enough, it was these two players who combined to give Brazil its second goal of the game.
With only half a year to go before the FIFA World Cup kicks off, and all 32 teams decided and seeded, let’s take a look at Brazil’s top options heading into the tournament, in a 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 formation.
You don’t need to look far to find the number one keeper for Brazil. He’s manned the posts for several years now, since Dida stepped down post-2006 World Cup. Yes, Julio Cesar remains Brazil’s top choice between the sticks and for good reason; the shot stopper has been consistent for the national team since he took over the role.
However, his club form has been lacking, to say the least. Since Queens Park Rangers was relegated from the Premier League, Julio Cesar has found little playing time. Harry Redknapp even told the press that he was free to leave in January without the club looking for a fee.
So with his club situation looking less than secure, Julio Cesar may just end up playing second fiddle come summer of 2014. At 34 years old, he’s no spring chicken, but that’s still an okay age for a goalkeeper so that shouldn’t be a major factor.
However, should his lack of club playing time become a hindrance to his quality, Brazil can call upon a pair of local goalkeepers in Victor and Jefferson. The former plays at Atletico Mineiro, the latter, at Botofogo. Both would be dependable options but with less than 20 caps between them, the two 30-year-olds don’t have a tremendous amount of international experience to draw from. This makes the goalkeeping choice easy for Scolari – it’s Julio Cesar, unless it’s not.
Notable Possibility: Diego Alves. The Valencia keeper has plenty of first-team experience and can be a decent choice for Brazil, too.
Brazil’s typically shaky defence is bolstered by the obvious duo in the middle: David Luiz of Chelsea and Thiago Silva from Paris Saint-Germaine. The two centre defenders are expected to start in the World Cup, and for good reason; Thiago, the team’s captain, has been a top defender for the last few years and David Luiz, though struggling to find form and playing time at Chelsea, remains an absolute powerhouse for the national team; he handled Chile’s forwards with ease and his tall physique and capable footwork make him an easy pick for Scolari.
Backup options for the two include Dante from Bayern Munich, who seems to be a lock for a World Cup spot. The fourth central defender, though, is tricky; Atletico Madrid’s Miranda is certainly a reliable option. Should Scolari seek a more veteran presence, he can always fall back on an old face in Juan, who’s back in Brazil with Internacional.
Right and left fullback have been positions that Brazil has always filled with notable names; Cafú and Roberto Carlos remain legends of the game, but they have been replaced with Dani Alves and Marcelo. Against Chile, Scolari opted to recall Maicon and start Maxwell, but only one of the two stood out, enough so to make a case for a spot in the World Cup.
Yes, Maicon, the powerful right fullback with a commanding foot in defence and an eye for a cross into the box is certainly an option for Brazil again. Barcelona’s Dani Alves may be expected to start, but Maicon should take precedent over other right fullback options like Manchester United’s Rafael.
Left fullback is a position Brazil hasn’t been as fortunate in; Marcelo is the only real option for the team, while Maxwell and Andre Santos look less than capable. Barcelona’s Adriano is the best second choice for left fullback, though.
Notable Possibility: Felipe Luis. Not a regular for Brazil by any means, but the Atletico Madrid left fullback is a quality player that could be a surprise inclusion for Brazil.
As with every segment of the field, Chelsea is well represented in the roster. Midfield maestro Oscar is a sure pick for Brazil, as is his opposite, holding midfielder Ramires. Oscar in particular will be a crucial piece in Brazil’s puzzle; his ability to pick out a pass and find Neymar or Hulk is key to Brazil’s offensive movement. Oscar can also break through defenders by himself and score, and has a mean free kick, too.
As of late, Tottenham’s Paulinho and Wolfsburg’s Luiz Gustavo have formed a partnership in central midfield. Whether the duo starts or if Ramires displaces one of the two has yet to be seen, With Scolari giving the two constant call-ups, there’s no reason to believe that trend will stop.
Finally, Lazio’s Hernanes and PSG’s Lucas Moura give Brazil plenty of attacking support in multiple positions in midfield. The other Lucas, Liverpool’s Lucas Leiva, could find himself in the final 23 but he hasn’t been consistent enough in the roster just yet.
Notable Possibility: Kaká – he was once the crowning jewel in Brazil’s roster, but slumped in form and picked up numerous injuries, leaving him out of the national team. However, he has emerged once more at A.C. Milan and could just slip in past Hernanes for the final roster!
Neymar, Hulk, Willian, Alexandre Pato, Fred, Jo, Leandro Damiao, Robinho,
Let’s get the two obvious names out of the way, shall we? It’s almost a guarantee that Hulk will make the Brazil roster for the World Cup. He has been an absolute beast for Brazil, (Hulk) smashing in the goals regularly and playing well for his country.
Neymar is going to be the most important player for Brazil, but you already knew that. There’s not much left to say about the Barcelona star, so we’ll let his performances speak for itself: suffice it to say the whole world will be watching Neymar next summer.
In between the two, it’s hard not seeing Fred leading the line for Brazil. He has been sublime in recent years and was a major part in Brazil’s Confederations Cup winning team. Behind Fred is Jo, who has been a regular in the roster recently, though not a particularly spectacular player.
Chelsea’s Willian rounds off the already-abundant Blue contingent, and for good reason; he provides the national team with a powerful, tricky option up top. So that’s five players, but Brazil will probably head into the World Cup with two players per position, so that leaves room for one more wide forward.
Could it be Robinho? He has been hit-and-miss with A.C. Milan and while he has shown consistently with Brazil (and pulled off something special from time to time), he hasn’t been a part of the team for a while now. His recent call up – and goal – makes his case stronger, though. Leandro Damiao is always brought up in this conversation, as is Ronaldinho, though neither seems to be a lock for the national team.
Instead, that final wide role went to Bernard, who continues to receive call-ups and praise for his performances. Don’t be surprised if he is dropped for a more famous face in Ronaldinho, though. The pressure to call up Ronaldinho has been intense since he rediscovered his playing form at home. He could make a surprise inclusion, but that dream seemed to have been squashed when he was omitted from the Confederations Cup team. Still, the possibility remains, though for now, Bernard has the edge, and that’s how we’ll call it. Bernard rounds off the roster at 23!
Notable Possibility: Alexandre Pato. If the mighty duck keeps up with his improved play, he may just slip ahead of Jo in the final selection.
With three years of roster choices now behind the team, a final 23 seems set, with little room for movement. Brazil has a history of trying young, up-and-coming players through the qualifying segment of the tournament but has fallen back on its experienced players come the finals. That trend looks set to continue in the summer.
Possible options: Diego Alves; Juan, Felipe; Lucas Leiva, Kaká; Ronaldinho, Robinho, Alexandre Pato, Leandro Damiao.