Brazil's 0-0 draw with Mexico on Tuesday was far from the Selecao's best performance of the second Scolari era. For long periods of the tie Brazil lacked intensity, they were limited as an attacking threat and seemingly devoid of creativity.
The tone for the game was set by Scolari's cautious selection for the clash, and Brazil never recovered. While the manager must take his share of the blame, there were several players whose performances failed to meet expectations.
For most, the tie will be dismissed as a blip on what has been an impressive radar over the past year. Others, though, should be beginning to fret about their place on the side. Foremost among those, excluding Hulk and the debate over his continued involvement, will be midfielder Paulinho.
Paulinho was one of the brightest stars of last summer's Confederations Cup, riding high on the crest of a wave that had taken him to the Premier League with Tottenham.
In England, though, he has failed to hit top gear and finished the season poorly. Despite a flash of promise in his performance against Croatia, it would appear that he has brought that form with him into the World Cup.
Luckily for Brazil, Scolari is not short on midfield options. Hernanes has been his deep-lying playmaker of choice, Ramires is also high in his plans, while Fernandinho enters the tournament off the back of a tremendous season in the Premier League. Paulinho is eminently replaceable at the present time.
The issue for Scolari is that Paulinho's position as the box-to-box midfielder in his midfield pivot is so crucial. If the Spurs man fails to provide energy, Brazil can look incredibly static.
Against Mexico, it was a major issue and, with striker Fred also offering little in the way of dynamism, Brazil failed to gain much momentum until the final quarter of the match. By that time the introduction of Jo in particular had gone a long way to changing the flow of the game.
While he has not been high in Scolari's plans, many fans would like to see the introduction of Fernandinho following his starring role for Manchester City this season.
The former Shakhtar man is both intelligent in his defensive play and good at controlling the tempo of the game when in possession, two qualities Ramires sometimes falls short on. Hernanes, meanwhile, offers little in the way of mobility.
Scolari, though, is not easily shifted and that would suggest that Paulinho, as one of his most trusted players, will retain his place for the tie with Cameroon. It is a game that Brazil should win easily, whoever is selected.
Even if he is not planning a long-term switch, a change in midfield for that tie may just breathe life into the side. Scolari would be sending a message that poor performance will not be accepted and he is prepared to shuffle his pack. It is a shock tactic, but he can afford to try it against the African side.
Paulinho's place is one of a handful on the side that are beginning to come under threat, along with Hulk's, Dani Alves' and Fred's. Major changes are unlikely, but if the Spurs man is inhibiting his side as an attacking force, a change will be needed unless he makes dramatic improvements soon.
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