Felipe Scolari is back as the Brazilian national squad coach and announced yesterday his roster for the friendly match against England on February 6th, in the Wembley Stadium.
The 2002 World Cup winning coach chose a mix of a few surprises and some old, familiar faces to Brazilian fans.
Here is the line-up Scolari is most likely to use on February 6.
Scolari’s first surprise came right out of the gate, when he announced the 33-year-old was going to wear the Canarinho once again.
The last time the QPR keeper was between the pipes for the national team was in Brazil’s 2-1 win against Bosnia in February 2012.
Back then, he was still on Internazionale’s payroll, but was on a slow decline. Lately, the once-considered best goalie in the world has been a mere afterthought.
However, to say Júlio César is struggling today is (or at least should be) a felony, as he has been phenomenal for the Hoops.
Scolari’s choice to call up Júlio César is a symbol of his trust in the goalkeeper and a plea for Júlio César’s veteran leadership. Brazil is a squad that features way too many young stars like Neymar, Oscar and Lucas Moura. They need a strong, hardened vet in there to balance their emotions and take the pressure off.
In Scolari’s eyes, Júlio César is the perfect vet. He trusted Marcos, the starting goalie for the 2002 World Cup, in the very same fashion. Needless to say, that turned out very well.
These are really no-brainers. Dani Alves is only the best right outside back in the world right now and Adriano is the obvious choice to replace Marcelo, who has been out since October with a broken right foot.
The true surprise here is Atlético Madrid's Filipe Luis, who returns to the national squad after only appearing once in 2009. However, he should not get accustomed to the glory, as the tendency is that Marcelo will get his spot back once the Real Madrid star is back to playing form.
David Luiz has started virtually every game for the Brazilian team since Mano Menezes took the coaching spot after Dunga’s firing in the 2010 World Cup, so no surprise there.
Atlético Madrid’s Miranda, though, was another one of Scolari surprises.
Miranda has very little international playing experience as he only has six appearances, all in 2009. Besides, he should not get as much playing time once Thiago Silva, the true owner of Brazil’s number 3, comes back from his injury.
However, Miranda is a good player who has seen more than his share of soccer, playing in Ligue 1, Brasileirão and La Liga. He was the cornerstone of São Paulo’s brilliant defense between 2006 and 2007, which won two consecutive Brasileirão titles.
Scolari’s choice to go with Miranda is a no-risk gamble. If he happens to play well, he will prove to be a more than decent back up for Thiago Silva and David Luiz. If not, Scolari still has an array of other players like Roma’s Leandro Castán, Bayern Munich’s Dante and Vasco’s Dedé to fill up the spot. Miranda may, then, consider this game the most important of his career.
Scolari’ only surprises weren't only the players he called up, but also the players he decided not to call, especially Felipe Melo and Kaká.
Melo was torn to sheds in Brazil after the loss to the Netherlands in the 2010 World Cup Quaterfinals. If you remember, Felipe Melo scored an own goal and later was awarded a red card after he stomped Arjen Robben to the ground. After that dreaded game, he has never been called up to the Seleção again. However, his play as of late in Galatasaray had some members of the Brazilian media feeling like it was time for the midfielder to come back.
Kaká is the complete opposite. He was exempted from fault after Brazil’s loss in the World Cup and even got some nods to the Brazilian national squad in the previous years, including three of the last five matches. However, the 2007 recipient of the Ballon d’Or was struggling in his club, Real Madrid, collided with José Mourinho and is rumored to be leaving for AC Milan.
Instead of Melo and Kaká, though, Scolari decided to go with Ramires, Paulinho, Oscar and Ronaldinho.
The three first names are not really shockers, as their faces are now constants in Brazil’s games. Ronaldinho, though, is probably the biggest story line of Scolari’s list.
We all know what Ronaldinho has done in the past. It is his recent shortcomings that makes us all afraid—and confused.
Ronaldinho has failed to compete at the same brilliant level he did in Barcelona since the 2005 season, failing to score in the 2006 World Cup and being left out of the 2010 edition. Due to those shortcomings, he was not called up to the national squad with the frequency one would expect from him. Even worse, most Brazilian fans are fed up with the player’s antics and attitude, and simply want to see him eradicated from the national squad forever.
But, he did surprise every one last year with great (and surprising) performances for Atlético Mineiro, leading the team from Minas Gerais to second place in the Brasileirão and a Libertadores bid.
Scolari already rejuvenated the career of one Ronaldo: the phenomenon, when he called up the star to the 2002 World Cup despite his near-career-ending injuries. Could he be about to do the same with the three-time Ballon d’Or winner? The path starts on February 6 in Wembley Stadium.
There is no need to explain why Neymar is going to start the game. He will probably be the best player on the pitch in Wembley and has been Brazil’s shiniest star since 2010.
Fred, though, could come out as a bit of a shocker to some. Unfortunately, that should not be the case, as Fred has been making a case to be Brazil’s number 9 for quite some time.
Fun fact: Fred was actually in the 2006 Brazil World Cup squad, even scoring a goal against Australia in the group stage.
He has scored seven goals for the Canarinho in 19 matches, the latest against Argentina on November 21st, 2012. He was also the top scorer and champion of 2012’s Brasileirão, for Fluminense.
In fact, his play even called the attention of Serie A's powerhose Juventus, according to La Gazzeta dello Sport.
Quite simply, there is no Brazilian number 9 playing at a higher level right now than Fred. He should have been called up—and starting—for Brazil for a long, long time.