Assessing Brazil's Alternative Options for a World Cup Squad Place

Christopher AtkinsContributor IOctober 13, 2013

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - OCTOBER 12:  Brazil team pose during the international friendly match between South Korea and Brazil at the Sangam World Cup Stadium on October 12, 2013 in Seoul, South Korea.  (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

Luiz Felipe Scolari's Brazil are currently in Asia for the current international break, hoping to add to a 2-0 victory over South Korea with success over Zambia in Beijing.

While recent results have been strong, including June's stunning success at the Confederations Cup, there are still some outstanding issues in the Selecao lineup that Felipao will look to address ahead of next summer.

The question is, then, which players currently outside of the Brazil setup could come in and improve the squad ahead of next summer's World Cup.

Let's take a look at the current progress of some of the leading candidates:

 

Rafael (Manchester United)

MIDDLESBROUGH, ENGLAND - JULY 20:  Rafael Da Silva of Brazil in action during the international friendly match between Team GB and Brazil at Riverside Stadium on July 20, 2012 in Middlesbrough, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Julian Finney/Getty Images

Old Trafford-based right-back Rafael da Silva has been one of the Premier League's leading full-backs over the past couple of seasons, having worked hard on his physique and defensive awareness.

Rafael's Brazil career took a hit at the 2012 Olympic Games where, after a promising tournament, a mistake in the final saw Mexico take the lead in the opening minute of the clash.

There was speculation earlier this season that a return to the Brazil squad was in the offing, but with injury keeping him out of action for several weeks in September, Roma's Maicon was, instead, added to the squad as a backup right-back option.

With Maicon having since picked up an injury of his own, as well as performing poorly on his last outing for Brazil against Portugal, the backup right-back place in the squad is still up for grabs.

Should Rafael get a run of games in the coming weeks as David Moyes settles on his preferred lineup, he should be handed an opportunity by Scolari in coming friendlies.

 

 

Willian (Chelsea)

NORWICH, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 06:  Willian of Chelsea celebrates scoring their third goal with Ramires of Chelsea during the Barclays Premier League match between Norwich City and Chelsea at Carrow Road on October 6, 2013 in Norwich, England.  (Photo by Jami
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Following a summer move from Anzhi Makhachkala, Willian kick-started his Chelsea career ahead of the international break with a stunning strike on his Premier League debut against Norwich.

Willian's time at Chelsea had begun slowly, with several strong candidates competing for just a few attacking places. However, he has featured in both of the club's Champions League fixtures thus far.

The Brazilian will hope that, having settled into life at Cobham, he will now have the opportunity to feature more regularly in coming weeks—especially with Eden Hazard, Andre Schurrle and the club's strikers currently misfiring.

If he can help Jose Mourinho's side come to some kind of attacking form over coming weeks, the Corinthians product has a real chance of capitalising on the poor form of Hulk for Brazil or Lucas Moura's lack of playing time.

 

Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool)

Liverpool attacking midfielder Philippe Coutinho has been out of action in recent weeks, but has been sensational since joining the Anfield club in January.

A wonderfully creative central playmaker, Coutinho's best chance of making the 2014 World Cup is as a backup to Chelsea No. 10 Oscar. On current form, a place in the squad would be well-deserved.

It will be interesting to see how Coutinho is re-integrated into the side over coming weeks, with the return of Luis Suarez having seen Liverpool alter their setup to a 3-4-1-2 formation in recent weeks.

Assuming he can continue to make a significant impact in the Premier League upon his return, a place in the Brazil squad for upcoming friendlies would seem a likely outcome.

Scolari's first XI may be largely decided, but there are squad places aplenty up for grabs.

 

Sandro (Tottenham)

NEWCASTLE, UNITED KINGDOM - AUGUST 4:  Roger Espinoza of Honduras  and Sandro of Brazil battle for the ball during the Men's Football Quarter Final match between  Brazil and Honduras, on Day 8 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at St James' Park on August 4
Francis Bompard/Getty Images

A year ago, Sandro's presence at the 2014 World Cup would have seemed an absolute certainty. However, sadly, a cruciate ligament injury struck in January, and the "Beast" has fallen out of the Brazil reckoning.

Pre-injury, though, Sandro was in fine form, and there can be little doubt that his absence in the second-half of last season contributed to Tottenham missing out on a Champions League place.

At present, as he eases back from his spell on the sidelines, Sandro is yet to win back his regular first-team place—with Moussa Dembele and Paulinho currently occupying starting berths. First task in obtaining a World Cup place, then, is winning back his Tottenham place.

Should he achieve that over the next couple of months, Sandro would be of great benefit to Scolari's side. Lucas Leiva has been in mediocre form for Liverpool, while Luiz Gustavo lacks the range of passing and power that Sandro offers.

If he can return to previous levels, he should be able to win a place in the Brazil setup next summer. For the moment, though, it is winning his club place back that should be the priority.