Ronaldinho is set to make his first appearance for Brazil in 16 months after being called into the national team side that will face England at Wembley on February 6.
Manager Luis Felipe Scolari, who guided the Seleção to a fifth World Cup title in 2002, revealed the roster on Tuesday in Rio de Janeiro—the first time he has picked a Brazil squad since being appointed to succeed Mano Menezes, who was sacked in November.
There were also recalls for Queens Park Rangers goalkeeper Julio César, Lazio playmaker Hernanes and São Paulo striker Luis Fabiano, each of whom had fallen out of favour during the latter months of the Menezes regime.
Bayern Munich defender Dante, who has been outstanding for the Bundesliga leaders so far this season, was called up for the very first time. He has never represented Brazil at any age level, and there was a rather awkward moment during Scolari’s announcement when the 64-year-old seemed to have to introduce the centre-back to the press.
Also refreshingly picked on merit were Atletico Madrid duo Filipe Luis and Miranda and Fluminense striker Fred, whose 20 goals paced the Brasileiro in 2012 as the Tricolor Carioca won the title.
Notably absent were Real Madrid playmaker Kaká (who is rumoured to be on his way back to AC Milan), Fluminense midfielder Thiago Neves, Internacional forward Leandro Damião and Manchester United right-back Rafael.
Scolari, it seems, considered a combination of form, youthful vitality and international experience in making his selections, and the end result is a side that has managed to mostly please the usually critical Brazilian press. Menezes’ sides, by comparison, often looked as though they had been drawn from a hat, and the performances mirrored the randomness.
Of course, a Brazil manager’s first selection typically includes a bone thrown to the country’s journalists, and Ronaldinho, despite a solid campaign with Atlético Mineiro, fits the description in this instance. Just to ensure his team had hit the right notes, Scolari ran his choices past Brazilian Football Confederation president José Maria Marin on Monday.
Following the announcement the manager highlighted the importance of preparation, particularly as Brazil has no competitive matches between now and the World Cup they’ll be hosting in 17 months, other than the Confederations Cup.
“In 2014, if I’m not mistaken, we have only one game [scheduled ahead of the World Cup],” he said. “Let’s work well, organize and choose the players this year. We play 10 games [in 2013],” he said.
When asked what characteristics he hoped his squad would possess, he remarked, “Good technical quality, with tactical knowledge that can cope with European sides—and a bond, a love to play for the Brazilian team.”
Brazil team selected to travel to London in February:
Goalkeepers: Julio César (Queens Park Rangers); Diego Alves (Valencia)
Defenders: Dani Alves (Barcelona); Adriano (Barcelona); Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid); David Luiz (Chelsesa); Leandro Castán (AS Roma); Miranda (Atletico Madrid); Dante (Bayern Munich)
Forwards: Neymar (Santos); Lucas (PSG); Hulk (Zenit St. Petersburg); Fred (Fluminense); Luis Fabiano (São Paulo)