The journey for Brazil’s national team to the 2014 World Cup makes a quick stop to Wembley Stadium on Wednesday to take on England.
In a recent turn of events, Luiz Felipe Scolari was brought in to replace Mano Menezes who was let go after a series of inconsistencies in call-ups and mixed results.
With the 2013 Confederations Cup coming up in Brazil this summer, the CBF wanted to bring in Scolari to shake things up and begin winning convincingly.
While it seemed that Menezes was just starting to make progress with his choice of players and lineup selection, the confidence was just not there with the fans. Scolari has wasted no time and brought back veterans such as Ronaldinho (Atletico Mineiro), Luis Fabiano (Sao Paulo) and Julio Cesar (Queens Park Rangers).
Ronaldinho, arguably the best player between 2000 and 2010, dipped in form significantly after 2006, which led to his eventual absence from Dunga’s squad for the 2010 World Cup (a topic that could be its own article!). Eventually, he came back to Brazil and has been impressive for both Flamengo and his current squad Atletico Mineiro.
Does Ronaldinho deserve a second chance to be on the national team? If he can be close to his pre-2006 form, then by all means, bring him on board. If he is the unfocused player who was known more for his party antics off the pitch during the 2008 Olympics and while at AC Milan, then the team will be better off without him.
By 2014, the former Ballon d'Or winner will be 34 years old and a few steps slower, but the motivation to win a World Cup in his native country may be just what Ronaldinho needs to make himself necessary for the Selecao once again.
Can Scolari pull off the same magic that he did for Brazil in 2002?
Luis Fabiano, another returning veteran, hopes to replicate the form he brought under the Dunga regime. Between Alexandre Pato’s (Corinthians) proclivity to injury and Leandro Damiao's (Internacional) average form, it seems that Scolari has chosen to go with experience over youth.
Fabiano was never a part of the “Menezes Plan” but with teams putting more pressure on other forwards such as Neymar (Santos) and Hulk (Zenit St. Petersburg), it is imperative that Brazil has a true No. 9 that can add another layer of complexity to the attack.
Prior to 2010, Julio Cesar was considered amongst the top goalkeepers in the world. Fast-forward to present day, Cesar is nowhere near the keeper who was critical to Inter Milan winning the Serie A and the Champions League.
Unfortunately, there are no other international-ready keepers out there for Brazil. There are a few younger keepers in Brazil who could be ready, but they simply do not have enough experience at this time. In a critical time where every call-up will be scrutinized with a fine tooth comb, experience trumps over youth.
Look for Dani Alves (Barcelona) to lead the backline along with David Luiz (Chelsea), Adriano (Barcelona) and debutant Dante (Bayern Munich). With Thiago Silva (PSG) absent for this game, Dante will look to take advantage of such an opportunity, especially with a new manager in place.
Adriano, probably the most versatile player on the roster will fill in for regular LB Marcelo (Real Madrid). How the former Sevilla star has been overlooked for such a long period of time is shocking, but what can one expect with a talent pool as deep as Brazil’s.
How ironic that a country once known for producing world class midfielders has been unable to put together a core midfield that should be able to rival the midfield of Spain and Germany.
Reasons for the lack of a cohesive unit are due to bad timing, injuries and quite simply not enough time to have players train with one another. Expect to see Ramires and Oscar (Chelsea) feature together along with recent regular Paulinho (Corinthians) as Ramires’ partner in the defensive midfield role and either Lucas Moura (PSG) or Ronaldinho in an attacking role.
Early on, Scolari called on playmaker Hernanes (Lazio) who has been missing from the international game for quite some time, but a recent injury will keep him off the squad for this match.
With no time to waste, Neymar will be paired up with Fabiano up front. Hopefully the pair will be able to work well together in a similar fashion to what was seen when Robinho was paired up with Fabiano during the Dunga era.
While a new manager may seem to be the right answer given Brazil’s current situation, it is going to take Scolari more than one game to turn Brazil into a legitimate contender for the World Cup.
Between now and the Confederations Cup, Scolari and Brazil has six games to prepare themselves for their next set of official games.
What Scolari needs to do is find a core team of players to use and stick with them between now and the World Cup. Brazil does not have the luxury that Spain has where nearly 75% of their team plays for either Barcelona or Real Madrid.
The same can be said for Germany where the core of their team plays for Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund. These nations essentially have weekly/daily practice sessions because they all play for the same club teams.
Scolari is also on the right track so far by bringing in some veterans such as Fabiano and Cesar. If Ronaldinho can compete at his pre-2006 levels, things could turn around quickly.
The young generation has received enough experience over the past two years between the Olympics, Copa America and friendlies. Now is the time to incorporate some of the experienced players from the Dunga generation to give the team a proper balance.
England will be a great test for the Brazilians, as they are tuning up for their next set of World Cup Qualifiers. The English always have one of the best rosters on paper, so Brazil must be on the lookout for the speedy Theo Walcott (Arsenal), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United) and veterans such as Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard (both Chelsea).
As usual in friendly matches, England will maximize their use of substitutes, so also expect to see Tom Cleverly (Manchester United), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal) and Danny Welbeck (Manchester United).
Prediction: 2-2 draw. Expect the first half to be competitive, but look for England to change the pace of the game to slow down once the subs start rolling in.
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