Fred: Breaking Down the Attributes of the Brazil Striker
With the amount of talent at Brazil's disposal, it may have come as a shock to onlookers that the Selecao have opted for the man with the not-so-Brazilian name of Fred to spearhead their attack at the Confederations Cup.
Fred's career never really hit the heights it promised to when the 29-year-old emerged as a precocious striking talent in the early 2000s with America Mineiro and Cruzeiro.
Eighty-two goals in 102 appearances in four years marked the Brazilian out as a lethal finisher and earned him a move to French giants Lyon in 2005 where he endured a disappointing four years in France.
With just 12 goals in his last two seasons for the club, Fred found his first-team opportunities limited by injuries and the emergence of a 19-year-old Karim Benzema.
Having been released from his contract in 2009, Fred returned to the Brasileirao with Fluminense and made a return to his goalscoring best.
His 104 goals in 152 appearances over four years established himself as one of the most lethal strikers in Brazil.
Now, he has made a return to the international setup with Luiz Felipe Scolari.
Fred has always had a question mark over his head regarding his ability to cut it at the top level. Just 27 appearances for the Selecao demonstrates the reluctance of coaches to put their trust in the striker over the years.
With good reason, as Fred has always been perceived as a superb poacher with little else to contribute to the team.
However, a dearth of quality strikers has seen Brazil experiment with a 4-6-0 with Neymar drifting in a free role, as well as call ups for the ageing ex-Sevilla striker Luis Fabiano and the as-of-yet-untested Internacional centre-forward Leandro Damiao.
All of this experimentation came to little success.
Fred was never considered as a realistic solution for the Selecao's lack of strikers until people took notice of his red hot form for Fluminense when his goals fired the Tricolor to a second league title in three years in 2012.
So Scolari included him in the squad for his first match since returning as Brazil boss, a 2-1 defeat against England. Thrown into play for the ineffective Luis Fabiano, he scored a stunning equaliser in the second half and never looked back.
Goals against Italy, Russia and another against England in friendlies showed his potential as a clutch striker, and he continued that form with two more against the Azzurri in the Confederations Cup.
Six goals in eight games in 2013 makes Fred the leading goalscorer for the Selecao under Scolari, ahead of even Neymar, who contributed five in the same period.
Despite his reputation as a poacher, Fred has matured his game in recent years, adding a few more strings to his bow at Fluminense.
Already, he has demonstrated his ability to link up with teammates, most notably when he connected with Marcelo's cross to lay off for Neymar to crash home the first goal of the Confederations Cup against Japan.
He also has an excellent work ethic, allowing him to constantly make runs and create space for Brazil's attacking midfielders to exploit.
Fred may not live up to his predecessors as Brazil's No. 9, but in Scolari's regimented lineup designed to get the best out of Neymar, he fits the role perfectly.
His job is to create space by making runs, dragging defenders around to allow the more creative talents behind him to flourish. The ability to score goals while doing that was a handy bonus.
While Brazil are overloaded in the midfield department, it requires a striker able to bring out the best in the midfielders lined up behind him.
A striker-less formation didn't work under former boss Mano Menezes and Scolari experimented with Luis Fabiano and Ronaldinho to try and piece together an attacking unit that could combine to great effect.
That didn't work either, and by chance, Fred forced himself into Scolari's plans early on and cemented a place.
The attacking unit of Fred, Neymar, Oscar and Hulk didn't click early on in Scolari's reign, but it showed promise.
It finally clicked during the first game of the Confederations Cup against Japan, and since then, the Selecao have been nothing short of lethal.
They have Fred to thank for that; doing a selfless job in linking up with Neymar and Co. and bringing the best out of them.
It is hard to think of any other striker in Brazil's ranks who could have done the same job.
So then, it seems that Fred fits the national team perfectly. A mature and experienced foil to allow the young starlets behind him to shine.
But to diminish the Brazilian as a mere poacher would be a gross underestimation of Fred's abilities.
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