Confederations Cup 2013: Should Lucas Moura Replace Hulk for Brazil?
With the opening encounter of what promises to be an exciting Confederations Cup 2013 out of the way, the debate over Brazil's chances of success and team selection can begin.
A 3-0 victory over what appeared to be a Japanese side suffering from fatigue is an encouraging start for the selecao, but that is not to say that there were not issues from a Brazilian perspective.
In his post-match piece here, Sam Tighe takes a look at the consistent problem of Brazil's central midfield partnership which once more reared its head on the night. However, it was far from the only area for potential improvement, with the role of Zenit forward Hulk another area that could be looked at.
While Neymar set the competition alight in the game's opening minutes, as his superbly struck shot nestled into the corner of Eiji Kawashima's goal, attacking midfield colleague Hulk was unable to make any notable impact on the game.
Oscar was, at least, tidy in his play throughout, and set up Jo expertly for a late third goal, while Fred both assisted Neymar's strike and almost added one of his own. For Hulk, though, a rasping drive into the side netting was about his only meaningful contribution of the game.
It's not that Hulk is a bad player—that would be a ridiculous assertion to make of a player who has commanded such high levels of interest from top European clubs. It is more that he seems out of place among some of his colleagues.
While Neymar and Oscar, in particular, appear to be on a similar wavelength regarding short, sharp interchanges of passing, moves often appear to break down with the Zenit player. It is as if his speed of thought is not quite on the same level as his teammates.
For striker Fred, the same could be argued. However, in what is essentially a creative role, Hulk must do better. His passing completion rate fell at just 76 percent, he managed not a single key pass and not one cross found its intended target, per WhoScored
Such figures, of course, could be attributed to luck. However, this pattern of Hulk looking out of place among the Brazil national team has now been going on for some time.
The natural successor, then, would be Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Lucas Moura—another who has never really lived up to expectations with the national side. However, it should be added that Lucas has started just seven of his 26 Brazil appearances and played the full 90 minutes on just one solitary occasion.
The majority of Lucas' appearances, then, have been as a late substitute in fairly meaningless friendly encounters, when Brazil has either struggled badly against better sides or convincingly walked over a low ranked nation. He simply has not been tested at this level.
However, past experience with youth national teams shows that he has linked up well with both Neymar and Oscar in the past. He is, as an aside, also diligent in his defensive work and offers incredible pace on the counter attack.
Given his experience and good performances for both Sao Paulo and PSG in continental competition over the past 12 months, he deserves to be trusted on the biggest stage.
With Hulk consistently misfiring, the arguments against giving Lucas the opportunity to impress are few. At present, if you were to survey possible left-backs for Italy and Mexico, it is highly unlikely that they would choose to face the young Ligue 1 champion of the duo.
His pace and ability to beat his opponents one-on-one are qualities that scare defenders, and with Hulk failing to live up to expectations, experience can no longer be used as an excuse. Felipao has made big selection calls in the past, and this is another that would appear worth making at present.
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