Is Luiz Felipe Scolari Taking a Massive Gamble with No Experience in Attack?

Robbie BlakeleySpecial to Bleacher ReportMay 15, 2014

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - MAY 07: Brazilian national team coach Luiz Felipe Scolari speaks during the announcement of the team's squad for the 2014 FIFA World Cup on May 07, 2014 at Vivo Rio in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)
Buda Mendes/Getty Images

Fred, Neymar and Hulk. In Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari's line-up, these are the three charged with finding the goals that will lead the Selecao to a sixth World Cup crown.

After such an impressive run of form, who could blame Felipao for sticking with the tried and tested?

As hosts, Brazil have not had to qualify for the tournament. That means, in the last two years, the side has played just five competitive fixtures—all during the Confederations Cup last June.

When it mattered, Brazil found their rhythm. With Paulinho and Oscar only too eager to assist the front line, the team managed 14 goals at an average of 2.8 per game.

Fred and Neymar scored nine between them, including all three in the final against Spain. For all the talk of Scolari's pragmatic reputation and approach to the game, his 2014 Brazil team, despite being shy of some of the most eye-appealing forwards they have boasted over the years, are playing with verve.

Fred and Neymar scored nine goals between them at the Confederations Cup.
Fred and Neymar scored nine goals between them at the Confederations Cup.Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

The temptation to give a World Cup place amongst the forwards to a more experienced name was ignored. The trio of veterans, Ronaldinho Gaucho, Kaka and Robinho, like a group of wandering performers looking for one last hurrah, have been left in the cold as Jo and Bernard make up the forward options available to Big Phil.

There has been familiarity across the Brazil squad for the best part of a year now, and the door, whilst not being firmly shut, has only been partly ajar, as Scolari plots a brave new dawn for the Selecao.

Ronaldinho and Kaka were both tested and dispensed with in the infancy of Felipao's second coming. Neither made the squad for the Confederations Cup.

The one who seemed the most likely to get the nod was Robinho. The 30-year-old was called up for the friendlies last November against Honduras and Chile.

Ronaldinho's services have been dispensed with by Scolari.
Ronaldinho's services have been dispensed with by Scolari.Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

In the latter, he came off the bench to head a late winner. If Scolari was looking for some experience, if not necessarily to lead the line but perhaps to act as first aid in an emergency, then Robinho seemed to be that ace in the hole.

But a poor second half to the European campaign with Milan did little to improve his chances, and he has not even been granted a place amongst the list of seven reserves. The one striker on the list is Alan Kardec.

With Robinho too cast aside, Brazil are left with, for a tournament of such gargantuan importance as a World Cup, a rookie roll call of names to lead from the front.

Of those five, four of them—Neymar, Hulk, Jo and Bernard—are all appearing at their first World Cup.

Hulk is one of four Brazilian forwards to be participating at his first World Cup.
Hulk is one of four Brazilian forwards to be participating at his first World Cup.Gallo Images/Getty Images

Fred was a member of the 2006 squad but could barely get a look-in past some of the most feared names on the planet at the time: Ronaldo and Adriano upfront, not to mention Ronaldinho, Kaka and Robinho.

At 30 years old, Fred is still relatively new to the international game and has fewer caps than 22-year-old Neymar.

From that first World Cup appearance to his first-choice status at the Confederations Cup, Fred has been far from a Selecao regular. A host of names, including Julio Baptista, Vagner Love, Luis Fabiano and Grafite have occupied the Brazilian attack since then, with varying degrees of success.

Vagner Love has previously been preferred to Fred in Brazil's attack.
Vagner Love has previously been preferred to Fred in Brazil's attack.Clive Mason/Getty Images

Even in Scolari's first match back in charge, against England at Wembley last year, Fred only came on as a second-half substitute; Luis Fabiano had been given a starting berth.

The Fluminense forward has taken his chance, and credit must be granted. But leading the line in what will surely be the most pressurised environment the vast majority of these players has dealt with will be no mean feat.

To have no one to count on amongst the forward players who has been through that demanding process is an enormous gamble.

Football matches are won or lost for hundreds of minuscule reasons. There is no foolproof guide to winning games.

All coaches can do is prepare their charges as well as they see fit. Felipao has seen it as fitting to go with men of proven pedigree, while a question mark will hang over their mental readiness until the ball rolls in the Arena Corinthians on June 12.

Hosts Brazil need to hit the ground running, and fans are liable to get on the players' backs if the game remains goalless with 20 minutes to go. A Robinho, even a Kaka or a Ronaldinho, would be hugely advantageous in that scenario.