Potential Surprise Inclusions in the Brazil World Cup Squad
D-Day is almost upon us, with the opportunity to earn a spot at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil shrinking with each passing hour as the tournament approaches with alarming speed.
The draw for the competition is already consigned to the past, but for those attempting to earn a late place in one of the respective squads it will feel like only yesterday as they watch their chance of a lifetime slip away.
Nowhere will this be more keenly felt than among the potential squad players of hosts Brazil, who will be desperate to earn a place at the first World Cup to be held in the country for 64 years.
There will, doubtless, be one or two players who will make a late run to secure inclusion. But, for most, the dream of playing a World Cup in their homeland already looks like a distant prospect.
Who, then, could become the one or two surprise late inclusions of coach Luiz Felipe Scolari?
Since arriving at Liverpool a year ago, the ailing career of one-time child prodigy Coutinho has been given a new lease of life in a manner that many have doubted was possible.
While his 2013-14 campaign has been hampered somewhat by an injury sustained after a wild challenge by Swansea defender Ashley Williams, Liverpool have looked a much better side in his presence.
With quick feet, wonderful balance and an eye for a pass, he has a special quality that few can match and is still just 21 years of age.
Time is running out for Coutinho to stake a claim for inclusion, but there remains a strong chance that he will be called for Brazil’s next friendly in March.
While experience plays against him, his long-standing relationship with Oscar, Neymar and Lucas Moura from youth level will work in his favour.
As with Coutinho, Everton Ribeiro’s biggest obstacle when it comes to securing a berth in Luiz Felipe Scolari’s 23-man squad is his lack of international experience to date, having not yet represented his country.
However, the Cruzeiro attacking midfielder was the outstanding player of the Brazilian championship in 2013, scoring seven goals and providing 11 assists as A Raposa secured a memorable triumph.
Ribeiro has thus far resisted moves away from the club, with the 2014 Copa Libertadores at the forefront of his thinking.
However, there is still uncertainty surrounding Scolari’s attacking midfield picks and he may well find strong performances in that competition will see support gather for his inclusion at the World Cup.
It is unusual for major contenders for the World Cup title to even consider taking a 20-year-old central defender among their party. However, very few central defenders are quite like Marquinhos.
Aged 18, after just a handful of senior appearances for Corinthians, he had earned a move to Roma and was quickly integrated into the first team.
A year later, though, he was already bound for pastures new as an incredible €35 million offer arrived from Paris Saint-Germain for his services.
A wonderful reader of the game and terrific athlete, Marquinhos has settled well at the Parc des Princes and recently earned his first cap for Brazil.
A World Cup appearance is likely dependent on injuries to others, but he is well placed to capitalise should an opportunity emerge.
Rafael Da Silva
Were Rafael to be included in Brazil's squad for the 2014 World Cup it really ought not be a surprise, with his performance level over the past two years for Manchester United among the best in the Premier League.
While it is understandable that he should have to bide his time behind Dani Alves, injuries early in the season cost him his chance to stake a claim for the second right-back berth and, thus far, Maicon has capitalised.
There is still time, however, for the young Red Devil to earn his place and, given Maicon's injury record of recent seasons, it would really be no surprise to see a space in the squad open up.
He has been harshly judged for his Olympic final mistake, on a day when Brazil were comfortably outplayed by Mexico. His response to that showing, though, was to put in an excellent season to help his club to the 2012-13 Premier League title.
He is an automatic first pick for his club and will surely play an important role for Brazil in coming years.
As surprise picks go, a call up for Flamengo striker Hernane would be one of the biggest in Brazilian football history. However, the striker is still clinging onto hope of a call.
Having been somewhat of a journeyman forward for Sao Paulo state's lesser sides, Hernane's consistently excellent showings at that level earned a move to Flamengo 12 months ago.
A remarkable 36 goals later, he is now seen as a key figure for the Rubro-Negro and an outside bet for a Brazil call-up in coming months.
What may play in his favour is that Scolari's options at No. 9 are dire. Fred, star of early 2013, has spent the best part of six months out injured, Diego Costa has opted to play for Spain and Leandro Damiao has completely lost all semblance of form.
Atletico Mineiro's Jo aside, who is hardly an elite-level forward himself, Brazil's options are limited and it may well be that somebody of Hernane's ilk could sneak into the reckoning at the last minute.