Key Selection Dilemmas for Brazil in World Cup Clash with Cameroon
Luiz Felipe Scolari's Brazil side take on Cameroon on Monday in the knowledge that a point will be enough to secure a berth in the second round of the 2014 World Cup.
However, despite earning a win and a draw in their opening two games of the competition, Brazil have faced questions over their performance levels over the past few weeks.
While Scolari invariably remains unabashed in his desire to stick with the starting XI he has come to trust over the past year and a half, pressure is mounting.
Where, then, do the key selection decisions lie?
Paulinho: The Pressure Grows
When a legend of Zico's ilk questions your inclusion in the side in his Observer column, it is a sign that the pressure surrounding your inclusion is beginning to reach breaking point.
In the Selecao's four recent outings, including pre-tournament friendlies, Paulinho has stood out for the right reasons just once—against Croatia. Other than that, he has largely failed to make an influence.
As the key player in setting the tempo for Brazil from midfield in a box-to-box role, he simply cannot afford to be as anonymous as the level of opposition now begins to improve.
With Manchester City's Fernandinho an option from the bench, the Spurs man is in real need of a performance on Monday.
Can Fred Lead the Line for a World Cup-Winning Side?
Dani Alves lashed out this week at Alan Shearer's criticism of Fred's contribution to the Brazil side, describing the former England striker's harsh comments as "idiotic."
However, the fact that he felt the need to respond and defend his teammate would suggest that Brazil are beginning to feel the pressure.
Fred, if he is not scoring regularly, offers little to the side. He is an excellent goalscorer, but that is almost his entire game. Without goals, his doubters quickly come to the fore.
The pressure is now mounting, with some calling for Neymar to spearhead the side as a false nine. Scolari, though, trusts his man completely.
Is Hulk's Return the Right Move?
Hulk is set to return to the starting line-up for Brazil against Cameroon, having missed the Selecao's last outing through injury.
While the experiment with Ramires coming into replace him failed miserably, many would still like to see Chelsea's Willian incorporated as an in-form attacking option. On recent outings, he has outperformed both rivals by some distance.
Scolari, though, has his plans and does not like straying from that approach. Hulk will take the field against Cameroon, but he is another in desperate need of a stand out performance if he is to remain in the side.
The pressure is mounting and Brazil's players simply must start responding.
Neymar or Oscar Behind the Striker
Neymar has started both World Cup games thus far in a position just off central striker Fred, but despite scoring two goals, he has failed to ignite as many had hoped.
One of the big features of Brazil's play over the past two years has been his connection with Marcelo on the left flank. Yet, with his move into a berth in the middle, that combination has been lost.
What makes the decision even less understandable is that Scolari has an excellent No. 10 at his disposal in Chelsea's Oscar.
If they don't revert to original set-up against Cameroon, only a sublime display will stave off questions as to why Scolari has altered what was a winning balance for his side.
Should Maicon Be Given a Run out at Right-Back
When Dani Alves was busy defending Fred this week, it was one of the few occasions over the past few weeks when he was actively defensive.
The Barcelona veteran has been guilty of being beaten too easily on a number of occasions and has been criticised as one of Brazil's worst performers of the competition thus far.
Maicon may also be passed his prime, but if Dani Alves' performances do not improve, he may be an alternative worthy of real consideration.
It is just another dilemma for Felipao to think over ahead of the match.
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