Luiz Felipe Scolari Considers Brazil Options in World Cup Preparations

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Luiz Felipe Scolari Considers Brazil Options in World Cup Preparations
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In the days before the team's first preparation friendly against Panama in Goiania, Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari wants to ensure his players keep their eye on the prize.

The World Cup hosts retreated to the remote resort of Granja Comary, in the mountains of Teresopolis in Rio de Janeiro, as they undergo an intense session of training prior to the World Cup kick-off on June 12.

There have been few surprises thus far, Felipao hardly bothering to conceal his side as reporters and fans have gathered to watch the squad train. Given the team's excellent run of form for the last year, it hardly seems worthwhile.

For three days Scolari put his troops through their paces, separating a now established starting XI that reads: Julio Cesar; Daniel Alves, Thiago Silva, David Luiz, Marcelo; Luiz Gustavo, Paulinho; Hulk, Oscar, Neymar; Fred.

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Thiago Silva will not play against Panama today.

But on Sunday captain Silva dropped out of training, with Bayern Munich stopper Dante taking his place amongst the first team. The 30-year-old should partner Luiz in the centre of defence against Panama later today.

Paulinho, who complained of pain in his ankle, and Fernandinho, have also not travelled with the 23 for the game, as reported by Sambafoot. Ramires would be a ready-made replacement for the Tottenham midfielder, but Hernanes and Henrique are also competing for a midfield berth.

The side have now arrived in Goiania ahead of the friendly but training was far from plain sailing under Scolari's keen eye over the weekend. Anyone who thought they may be in for an easy ride was quickly and brutally corrected as Scolari tore into his players in front of some gleefully snapping photographers.

During the squad's final training session before leaving their base, Scolari showed open irritation and, afterwards, told journalists he was thinking of changing the line-up for the clash with Panama, as reported by Globo (link in Portuguese).

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Scolari showed irritation during Brazil's training session on Sunday.

Rarely has a side arrived at a World Cup with its starting XI defined for such a lengthy period of time, and there may feasibly be a nagging doubt in the back of Felipao's mind concerning complacency.

It cannot be considered conducive to the side's efforts that there are as many pictures of Bruna Marquezine, Neymar's new beau, across the country's sports pages as there are of the players themselves.

Surrounded by family members, there was a certain holiday feeling to Brazil training on Sunday, a notion Scolari was quick to stamp on. Arguably, the coach has been left with more questions than answers as the Selecao reaches the one-week milestone in their World Cup preparations.

For all his endeavours and despite the backing of the national coach, Hulk's place seems to be constantly under threat. His cause has not been helped by the stand-out performances from Willian amongst the reserves.

The Chelsea player has timed his form to perfection as he attempts to make the right-sided prong of Scolari's attacking fork his own.

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Henrique could be promoted to the midfield ranks.

Big Phil's main gripe was with the ease in which his reserves were able to find space, something rapid, counter-attacking teams will manage to exploit with potentially fatal consequences during the World Cup.

For that reason Henrique, a central defender by trade, may find himself promoted to the midfield ranks alongside Luiz Gustavo, to lend more defensive solidity to the team's shape.

Gustavo was the player who benefited from a perceived lack of steel prior to the Confederations Cup. He started the game against France, which Brazil won 3-0, and he has never looked back.

Could Scolari be about to make another bold call and change his approach so close to the tournament?

His side have won six successive friendlies but there can simply be no room for a lack of focus, or gaping holes in the middle of the park, so close to the pinnacle of Brazil's last four years of preparatory work.

Perhaps, for the relatively straightforward test that Panama should offer, it would be beneficial for some new names to be thrown into the ring. That would give the established guard food for thought in the days before the curtain raiser.

Possible starting XI against Panama:

Julio Cesar; Daniel Alves, Dante, David Luiz, Marcelo; Luiz Gustavo, Henrique; Willian, Oscar, Neymar; Fred.

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