Is There Space for Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho in the Brazil Team?

Robbie BlakeleySpecial to Bleacher ReportFebruary 5, 2014

BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - JANUARY 25:  Philippe Coutinho of Liverpool on the ball during the FA Cup Fourth Round match between Bournemouth and Liverpool at Goldsands Stadium on January 25, 2014 in Bournemouth, England.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
Ian Walton/Getty Images

It is a brave new dawn for Brazil. The rebirth of the playmaker, the provider, floating dangerously between defence and midfield, a tricky beast to track.

Right now, the country is producing them in abundance. Neymar, Oscar, Lucas Moura and Bernard, all in their early 20s and seen as great visionaries for the future are all in and around the national squad.

And, almost as an afterthought, there's Philippe Coutinho. The former Vasco da Gama prodigy, alongside Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, forms one of the Premier League's most dangerous attacking trios.

Luis Suarez and Coutinho have formed a dangerous partnership at Liverpool, alongside Daniel Sturridge
Luis Suarez and Coutinho have formed a dangerous partnership at Liverpool, alongside Daniel SturridgeMichael Regan/Getty Images

His form this season has led to serious touting as a potential Selecao player. If he is to get that chance before the World Cup looms, there remains only one international friendly.

On March 5, Brazil play South Africa in Johannesburg. Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari's selection, to be made next week, will indicate definitively whether or not he is considering Coutinho for World Cup duty.

Having arrived at Anfield a little over a year ago, the 21-year-old has had a blistering impact on the side's fortunes. For the first time since Rafa Benitez's tenure, the club have a genuine chance of qualifying for the UEFA Champions League.

Compatriot Sandro, who plays for Tottenham Hotspur, paid Coutinho the huge compliment of comparing him with two-time World Player of the Year Ronaldinho Gaucho, as reported by Paul Wilson of The Guardian.

Whilst he may not be quite at that level yet, the fact that Coutinho is being mentioned in the same breath as quite possibly the most naturally-gifted player to walk out of Brazil in the past two decades speaks volumes.

Coutinho currently has one Brazil cap to his name, and that came over three years ago against Iran. He moved to Italy with Internazionale and that is where his career stalled somewhat, before finding his feet again in the Premier League.

It is perhaps why he finds himself on the outside looking in as Scolari comes ever closer to closing his 23-man squad for the World Cup.

He is certainly playing at a more competitive level than Bernard and Lucas, of Shakhtar Donetsk and Paris Saint-Germain respectively. The latter has fallen drastically during Scolari's second spell in charge.

Coutinho's exquisite pass for Daniel Sturridge's first goal during the 4-0 rout of Everton last week was testament to the player's ability.

Bernard (centre) is currently ahead of Coutinho in the Brazil pecking order
Bernard (centre) is currently ahead of Coutinho in the Brazil pecking orderEfrem Lukatsky/Associated Press

And with that solitary international fixture prior to the World Cup, club form will be key to his inclusion this summer.

Being part of the attack that fires Liverpool back into Europe's premier club competition would do wonders not only for his self-confidence but for his career. It will be his ultimate chance to throw his hat into the World Cup ring.

But it is not only about showing the kind of form worthy of an international call-up. He must simultaneously dislodge those who have earned Scolari's trust and respect, principally through the Confederations Cup win last June.

One would expect Neymar and Oscar to be straight onto the squad sheet. That leaves a handful of players battling for one spot in a 4-2-3-1 formation.

Bernard is a Scolari favourite whilst Hulk, of Russian outfit Zenit St. Petersburg, offers more physicality than his counterparts.

Oscar has been in even better form than Coutinho this season
Oscar has been in even better form than Coutinho this seasonElsa/Getty Images

At Liverpool, the Brazilian's role is identical to that of Oscar at Chelsea. Positioned behind the forward, probing for space and drawing the defence away from the side's main goal threat.

If it came down to a direct choice between the Chelsea and Liverpool man, it would be challenging to make a case for Coutinho. Aside from the fact he has not made an appearance under Scolari, Oscar has been in the form of his life since outing Juan Mata as Chelsea's creative motor.

That would mean shifting Coutinho out to the right. But would a trio of Neymar, Oscar and Coutinho leave the Brazilian attack too lightweight?

Probably. And that is where his problem lies. Coutinho is blossoming at a time when Brazil are rich with vision and imagination.

We will have to wait until Big Phil announces his squad for the March friendly. He may well get an opportunity, but trying to find space for him in a World Cup team may be trying to cram too many suitcases into the car boot.