5 Ways Brazil Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari Should Experiment vs. South Africa
Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari has his final opportunity to experiment ahead of the World Cup in this week's friendly with South Africa, with his squad for the tournament set to be named in early May.
While nobody is expecting the African side to pose too much of a test for the Selecao, Scolari will be keen to examine some of the fringe options in his squad and tactical alternatives available to him.
With time against him from the start of his reign, there are still some issues for the 2002 World Cup-winning coach to iron out and he will hope to gain answers in the coming days.
But what should he be looking to test in Johannesburg on Wednesday?
1. A Strikerless Formation
Both Jo and Fred are back in the squad for the clash in South Africa and will likely be the only two out-and-out strikers in the squad for the World Cup this summer.
Given the latter's injury record over the past two years, though, Scolari would be well advised to consider other options ahead of the summer. With no obvious striking candidates to come into the squad, that may well mean using either Neymar or Hulk as a centre-forward.
It is something Brazil have tried before, with both players having played a withdrawn striking role. Its most effective usage came late in Mano Menezes' era as Brazil boss when Neymar was highly effective as a "false nine."
Felipao cannot afford to rely solely on the two players he has for the centre-forward berth and should at least examine other possibilities.
2. Fernandinho as a Midfield Option
A Capital One Cup winner with his Manchester City side, Fernandinho has been excellent in his first season in England and, as a result, is back in the Brazil squad once more.
Scolari has, thus far, largely stuck to the pairing of Luiz Gustavo and Paulinho as his preferred option in midfield. Ramires, Hernanes, Lucas Leiva, Sandro and Fernando, meanwhile, have all been considered for squad places. Only Ramires, though, is certain to attend the World Cup this summer.
What Fernandinho can offer is cover for both defensive midfield roles, either as the deeper-lying of the pair or the box-to-box role.
He has shown at City that he is well suited to playing as the deeper of the midfielders, which was not always his natural position and that can only boost his chances of a place at the summer's World Cup.
3. Give Jefferson a Chance to Stake His Claim
Botafogo goalkeeper Jefferson has been in and around the Brazil squad for many years, but he has never managed to make himself a regular in the side due to the presence of Julio Cesar.
With the QPR-owned goalkeeper yet to start his season, though, it is a good opportunity for Scolari to give Jefferson another start and work on his understanding with the Brazil defence.
Julio Cesar proved injury prone last season with Rangers and it is always good to enter a tournament with a reserve 'keeper who is familiar with the first-choice defence.
Jefferson is a solid all-round goalkeeper and a penalty specialist, besides having plentiful club level experience. Another run-out can only help.
4. Examine Rafinha's Credentials
Pictured with Bayern team-mate and now international colleague Dante, Rafinha has one international cap to his name despite a long career in the top levels of European football.
Felipao has yet to settle on his reserve full-backs, with Jean, Filipe Luis and Barcelona's Adriano all having failed to make a place in the squad their own.
On form, he is more than deserving of his place in the squad at present. However, if he is to carry forward that selection into the World Cup, he will need to demonstrate his ability to Felipao this week.
An extended run-out is in order against South Africa, with Dani Alves' place at the Mundial already secure.
5. Utilise Willian and Oscar's Club Partnership
Neymar will almost certainly take up his berth on the left should Scolari choose to play his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation, leaving two attacking-midfield spots vacant.
Oscar is a virtual ever present at No. 10 meaning the main competition is between Hulk, Bernard and Willian for the right-hand slot. Given the understanding Willian and Oscar are building at Chelsea, the former-Shakhtar man is the obvious choice.
Scolari has shown preference to Hulk for much of his reign, but the powerful forward has not matched expectations. Bernard, meanwhile, is out of form and short of match fitness.
Willian is the obvious choice and should be given a further chance to cement his place at this summer's tournament.