Predicting the Brazil Squad 60 Days from the 2014 World Cup
No country will enter this summer's competition with more pressure on their shoulders than hosts Brazil, with last year's unexpected Confederations Cup success only raising expectation levels that were already set sky high.
The Selecao are always a side to beat in World Cup competition, having won the competition a record five occasions. No other nation can claim to have their footballing pedigree.
Picking the right squad for this summer's tournament, then, is all the more important, and that pressure falls solely on the broad shoulders of 2002 World Cup champion, head coach Luiz Felipe Scolari.
He has experience on his side and has fostered a terrific atmosphere within the squad in a remarkably short period of time. Which 23 men, though, are likely to receive their call to duty on home soil this summer?
Bleacher Report takes a look at Brazil's likely World Cup squad.
On loan at Toronto FC, Queens Park Rangers-owned goalkeeper Julio Cesar has been the first choice for Brazil since the arrival of Scolari as head coach 15 months ago and looks unlikely to lose his berth.
An excellent shot-stopper, Cesar rescued his career in west London but fell foul of the club's relegation to the English Championship. In Canada, though, he has the opportunity to gain valuable playing time ahead of the World Cup.
His experience of major tournaments past will also be an important addition to the squad dynamic.
One of the most experienced and consistent goalkeepers in Brazilian domestic football, Botafogo's Jefferson has only nine caps for his country but has captained the Selecao on occasions.
Now 31, he is a more mature player than the man who returned from Turkey in 2009 and has a reputation for expertise in penalty shootouts that could potentially be of use at the competition.
He is likely, though, to be restricted to a backup role, barring misfortune to Cesar.
The third goalkeeper slot within the Brazil squad remains up in the air, with Atletico Mineiro's Victor or Diego Cavalieri the two likely contenders for the shirt.
Victor is the more likely of the pair following his excellent performances for Atletico over the last 18 months, but Diego Cavalieri is known as perhaps Brazil's foremost penalty-saving expert.
Liverpool fans will remember the latter for his brief spell at Anfield a few years previous.
Barcelona right-back Dani Alves is among the world's very best in his position and will be an important member of Brazil's side this summer, even if his international performances have not always matched those of club level.
Scolari has remained faithful to Brazil's long-standing formula of utilising attacking full-backs as a major part of the side's gameplan, and in Alves, he has a fine exponent of the role.
Alves will almost certainly be appearing in his final World Cup this summer and will be looking to leave a major mark at international level before bowing out.
Bayern right-back Rafinha looks to have forced himself into late contention for the role of Dani Alves' reserve this summer, beating off competition from the likes of Maicon, Jean and Rafael.
Under Pep Guardiola, he has this season earned more opportunities with his club than in previous years and has taken advantage with excellent performances as part of an all-conquering machine.
Seen as a more solid defensive player than Alves, he could find himself used if Brazil seek a more conservative approach late in games.
Real Madrid full-back Marcelo is likely to be the man in possession of Brazil's No. 6 shirt, normally handed to the first-choice on the left side of defence.
The cavaliering wing-back is another who has been a firm favourite of the Scolari era and has forged an impressive partnership with Neymar on his flank.
His propensity to seek trouble with referees is a concern, but he is undoubtedly a considerable asset at Brazil's disposal in attacking areas.
Another late-runner into a full-back berth is Paris Saint-Germain left-back Maxwell, who now appears favourite to act as Marcelo's backup at the competition.
Maxwell has been in and around the European elite for many years, but he had been largely out of favour with his country since the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.
His performances in Paris, though, have seen him return to the squad and he looks set to hold off the challenge of Atletico Madrid's Filipe Luis—his biggest rival for the role.
Thiago Silva (Captain)
When it comes to picking Brazil squads, captain Thiago Silva is likely the first name of Scolari's list. The PSG man is widely regarded as the best central defender in world football and rarely puts a foot wrong for club and country.
Thiago's central defensive partnership with David Luiz is an important component of the Brazil setup, with the pair providing a solid base from which the rest of the side can build off.
While Luiz's impetuous nature can cause issues with some partners, Silva's intelligent positioning helps balance the partnership and bring the best out of his colleague.
David Luiz predominantly starts as a midfielder at club level these days, when picked, but he remains the regular centre-back partner of Thiago Silva at international level.
The duo's partnership has proved so consistently successful over the past 15 months that Scolari would be loath to break up the combination, regardless of Luiz's lack of playing time in the role.
His recent Champions League showings against PSG will have helped ease any doubts the head coach may have about his lack of opportunities this season and he should find his starting status remains unaltered.
Bayern Munich man mountain Dante is set to be first reserve for Scolari's side in the centre-back positions, having made himself one of European football's top-rated defenders over the past two seasons.
Comfortable with the ball at his feet, a good tackler and a physical giant, Dante has only one major deficiency, a lack of pace. However, Scolari has used him well late in games when looking to shut up shop at the back.
Should the head coach choose to experiment with a three-man defence at any point, as has been his wont in the past, Dante may well find his role significantly increased.
The fourth and likely final centre-back in Brazil's squad this summer looks set to be Cruzeiro giant Dede, who has previously rejected European offers to earn a shot at the World Cup this summer.
Having lost his way a little in 2012, when injuries blighted his progress, Dede re-emerged as the best centre-back in Brazil with a bang last season as part of a Brasileirao-winning Cruzeiro side.
His long legs help him cover the ground with incredible speed, and he boasts all the basic abilities needed to be a top-level defender. A good World Cup could spark his long-awaited European move.
Brazil's success at the Confederations Cup last summer was built upon a somewhat surprising midfield unit of Luiz Gustavo and Paulinho, both of who impressed at the competition.
Now of Wolfsburg, Luiz Gustavo is the anchor of the midfield unit and his diligent and intelligent defensive work allows his more attack-minded teammates to shine.
His place, though, has come under recent threat from Manchester City's Fernandinho, and it remains to be seen whether he will start this summer's competition as one of Brazil's regular first XI.
If Luiz Gustavo's starting berth is starting to come under pressure, so is that of his midfield partner, Paulinho. The Tottenham midfielder has had an up-and-down campaign in England, while the recall of Ramires to recent squads adds pressure on his place.
Paulinho, though, is an incredibly useful midfielder. Besides his discipline with regards to contributing in defence, he also chips in with goals and is a master of late bursts into the area.
Scolari knows what Paulinho can do when given the chance and will not read too much into his Tottenham form. He cannot afford to start the tournament slowly, though.
Manchester City midfielder Fernandinho was unlucky to have ever lost his place in the Brazil side, having played well under former manager Mano Menezes. A shift of focus ahead of the Olympic Games and his lack of publicity while in Ukraine, though, saw him slip out of consideration.
His first season in England, though, has been terrific. At City, he has quickly established himself at the base of midfield and has played important roles in big games against some of their biggest rivals.
Now back in favour with his country, Fernandinho is having excellent showings, which adds to the pressure on Luiz Gustavo's shoulders and gives Scolari an ever-harder decision to make.
Another who spent a long time out of favour over the past two years is Chelsea's Ramires, who paid the price for failing to follow accepted procedure when withdrawing from a squad through injury.
Now back in the good books of Brazil's management, he has done well on recent international outings and could well be in with a shout of a starting role come June.
Ramires' biggest asset is his stamina, but his versatility will also be of use to Scolari, with the "Blue Kenyan" able to cover both central and right midfield roles.
The increased importance of Ramires, plus the integration of Fernandinho, has seen Hernanes come in danger of losing his place within the Brazil squad.
"The Prophet" always had in his favour that he could operate in both defensive and attacking midfield roles. However, he is now not alone in possessing that ability and is outside of the Champions League spotlight with an under-performing Inter Milan side.
Should Hernanes fail to make the final list, Brazil would lose a player with passing range unmatched by their other squad options. He could, though, make way if Scolari feels another forward or defender is of greater use.
Despite receiving criticism for a number of underwhelming performances from the right of the Brazilian attack, the most likely player to start in the role remains Zenit Saint Petersburg forward Hulk.
The former Porto player, with his direct running style and eye for goal, has the potential to be an excellent foil for the talents of Neymar and Oscar with his more physical approach. If he can hit form in a Brazil shirt, it could be a special combination.
His place, though, is rightfully under pressure, and Brazil's options for a starting berth are plentiful. Should he fail to step up, the likes of Willian, Bernard and Lucas Moura will be baying for a chance to impress.
Another who was in danger of falling off the radar in Ukraine and Russia was Willian, but the wide forward has revived his international career in a fine first season with Chelsea.
Now 25, Willian has just a handful of caps to his name but has done well on recent outings and will have impressed Scolari with his incredible workrate.
With the ability to play anywhere across the attacking midfield line, he is an incredibly useful player to take to a major tournament and he will still retain hopes of a starting berth.
The key to Brazilian success? Chelsea attacking midfielder Oscar is Brazil's central attacking midfielder and carries much responsibility on his shoulders when it comes to the overall balance of the side.
Another whose astonishing workrate makes him an important asset, the diminutive playmaker is at his best when floating around the pitch and looking to influence play in all areas.
With a 1-in-3 strike-rate at international level, he is also one of Brazil's biggest goal threats and will be expected to contribute in that regard once more this summer.
The superstar of Scolari's side, Neymar, will find himself the centre of attention of not only the global media but also the entire Brazilian population when the World Cup kicks off in June.
Neymar, though, has lived in the public spotlight since the age of 17 and is no stranger to pressure. Indeed, his record of 30 goals in 47 appearances for Brazil would suggest that he thrives on responsibility.
Despite being just 22 years old, he is already seen by many as Brazil's most important player and certainly carries much of the side's attacking threat. If he fires once again this summer, Brazil will have a real chance of success.
One of the most interesting selection dilemmas Scolari faces ahead of this summer's competition is in the likely head-to-head shootout between Shakhtar's Bernard and PSG's Lucas Moura for an attacking berth.
On club form, it would be expected that the latter would triumph, despite not always being a regular starter at the Parc des Princes. Lucas, though, has frequently disappointed in his 31 appearances from Brazil and has dropped out of recent squads.
Bernard, while also not boasting a great goalscoring record for his country, has instead managed to influence proceedings as a substitute and pushed ahead of his rival during last summer's Confederations Cup.
At present, it is he who is in pole position.
Fluminense forward Fred has been the preferred starting striker of Scolari since his return as Brazil head coach, and while not everybody's favourite, he scored nine goals for his country last year.
At the Confederations Cup, he was particularly impressive as he scored five goals in five games as Brazil claimed victory. He has since struggled with injury, but will start this summer as long as he remains fit.
Brazil's striking depth is not ideal at the present time, but in Fred they have a player who averages one goal every two games at international level and whose all-round game has improved with age.
Another forward who looks set to play an important role for Brazil despite having many doubters is Atletico Mineiro's Jo, scorer of five goals for his country over the past 12 months.
The former CSKA Moscow and Manchester City striker's career had appeared to be heading downhill sharply after loan spells with Everton, Galatasaray and Internacional that brought only limited success.
At Atletico, though, he has recaptured some of the form of old and helped the side to success in the Copa Libertadores. His role in that triumph propelled him back into international reckoning and, thus far, he has taken advantage of all opportunities to come his way.
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