Luiz Felipe Scolari Could Make Tactical Switch for Cameroon Clash

Robbie BlakeleySpecial to Bleacher ReportJune 20, 2014

FORTALEZA, BRAZIL - JUNE 17:  Head coach Luiz Felipe Scolari of Brazil reacts during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match between Brazil and Mexico at Castelao on June 17, 2014 in Fortaleza, Brazil.  (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)
Buda Mendes/Getty Images

What happens to them?” screamed the headline in Lance, Brazil's daily sports newspaper. Brazil as a collective have been far from convincing in the opening two rounds of the FIFA World Cup, but two players in particular are already being sized up by the local press as the villains of the piece: Fred and Paulinho.

The pair rose to prominence on the wave of coach Luiz Felipe Scolari's return, but are currently a far cry from their form of the Confederations Cup.

Fred's statistics at the start of this tournament are damning. Scorer of five goals during the dress rehearsal, in the opening match against Croatia last Thursday, the No. 9 didn't manage a single shot on goal throughout the 90 minutes.

Paulinho has been a first choice for Scolari from the outset, playing in 20 internationals since Felipao's return. Only David Luiz, Oscar and Neymar have appeared more often.

As the Selecao prepares for their final group game against the already-eliminated Cameroon on Monday at the Mane Garrincha Stadium in Brasilia, two of Scolari's apparent disciples find their positions under serious threat.

Fred has made a poor start to the World Cup.
Fred has made a poor start to the World Cup.Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Paulinho is the side's motor, the box-to-box engine that facilitates the movement from back to front. He also chipped in during the Confederations Cup with two goals, including the winner against Uruguay in the semi-final.

Fred, meanwhile, since topping the scoring charts last year, has managed just one goal for Brazil in the past 12 months. Ever since June, he has faced a series of setbacks.

The striker suffered yet another long-term injury at club Fluminense, just as he had done in 2009 and 2010. This year he became embroiled in a heated exchange with the club's supporters after a string of apathetic displays.

If Brazil's engine is to start running smoothly, and a disinterested Cameroon outfit may be the perfect opponent for variation, then a change of scheme could be in order.

Paulinho looks a shadow of the player of last year.
Paulinho looks a shadow of the player of last year.Buda Mendes/Getty Images

Having missed the last game through injury, Hulk should return to the line-up on Monday. Usually deployed out wide by Scolari, the 27-year-old is certainly capable of leading the line, should Felipao have lost faith in his poacher.

Scolari has been loyal to his 4-2-3-1 formation, which has been the shape of the side ever since his first match back in charge last February.

But another option is a throwback to the Mano Menezes era. Menezes had settled on an almost 4-2-4, negating the need for a fixed target man and allowing greater freedom and flexibility amongst the forward players.

The tactical switch would demand dropping Fred. Primarily a goalscorer, his static position at the top of the tree would render him virtually futile in such a setup.

That would mean a place for one of Bernard or Willian, alongside Hulk, Neymar and Oscar. The pace of Bernard and his ability to get in behind defenders, as he proved so early after coming on against Mexico, can be a potent weapon.

If Scolari changes formation, Bernard could be given a place in the starting line-up.
If Scolari changes formation, Bernard could be given a place in the starting line-up.Buda Mendes/Getty Images

If Paulinho is to be dropped too, there are three pretenders to his crown.

During the warm-up friendlies, Hernanes made the biggest impact in central midfield. Coming on in the second half against Panama in a game which Paulinho missed, the Internazionale midfielder changed the dynamism of the side for the better.

Ramires had started that game and failed to impress, just as he did against Mexico. To further weaken his case for a starting berth, he picked up a yellow card and is one of four players, alongside Thiago Silva, Luiz Gustavo and Neymar, who is one game away from a suspension.

How the team may look against Cameroon.
How the team may look against Cameroon.BR Tools

Fernandinho's end-of-season form for Manchester City and encouraging early performances for Brazil put him in with a late shout, although if Scolari's preferences in preparation are to be an indicator, then Hernanes would be next in line.

But in attack is where the most difficult issues need to be addressed, where the side needs a cutting edge that looked decidedly blunt against Mexico.

Stick with Fred, a man who has managed two shots on goal in as many games? Continue with the tried and tested formation but put in like-for-like replacement Jo, who snatched at and wasted arguably Brazil's best chance against the Mexicans when in clear sight of Guillermo Ochoa's goal?

Or there could be an admittance that, despite some poor results, Menezes was onto something tactically.

What to do with two of his most trusted players? It is a question Scolari would do well to ponder over the coming days.