Why Hulk Is Under Most Pressure for Brazil Following Win with Cameroon

Christopher Atkins@@chris_elasticoContributor IJune 24, 2014

Brazil's Hulk attacks Cameroon's goalkeeper Charles Itandje's goal during the group A World Cup soccer match between Cameroon and Brazil at the Estadio Nacional in Brasilia, Brazil, Monday, June 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press

Much focus of late has been on the continued selection of Paulinho in the Brazil midfield and, indeed, the Spurs man's rotten form continued on Monday night as he was dragged off at half-time for eventual goalscorer Fernandinho.

That debate, based on the evidence of recent weeks, should no longer be an issue. It is clear for all to see that a change must be made and Fernandinho's arrival changed the flow of the encounter with Cameroon. His place in the side to face Chile would seem a foregone conclusion.

Unfortunately for Luiz Felipe Scolari, his selection dilemmas run deeper than just one midfield berth. While Fred grabbed himself a goal to stem the tide of questions over his inclusion, Dani Alves was poor defensively once more in his right-back berth.

Luckily for him, though, Paulinho and the equally lacklustre Hulk have done much to divert attention from what is now a string of lapses in the past few weeks alone.

With Paulinho's World Cup as a starter now likely at an end, calls are growing for Hulk to be axed at the same time. He was at least more involved than his colleague on Monday, the issue being that his involvement tended to see moves come to a grinding holt.

Having missed Brazil's second World Cup fixture against Mexico, Hulk has now been subbed just after the hour mark in both games he has played. Unfortunately for those fans craving more of Willian or Bernard, it would seem that Scolari has taken to using Ramires as his substitute on the right flank.

Quite why is difficult to fathom, other than the Chelsea star's ability to track back and forward endlessly on the flank. Brazil, though, have looked best in recent outings when Willian has been involved and that is the solution many would like to see. Scolari, though, will continue to resist changes.

Pressure on Hulk is growing, though, and the Zenit forward has never been a particular favourite with Brazil fans. Indeed, he has often left the pitch to the sound of derision from those supposedly supporting the Selecao, with clumsy and disappointing performances having become the norm.

Used as a central striker for Zenit, it is not that he is unaccustomed to playing from the flank. After all, the best season of his career came largely from a berth on the right at Porto under Andre Villas-Boas.

There, though, he was encouraged to cut in and attack the goal. Felipao, though, wants someone to do that while also maintaining width and defensive solidity. It is understandable that all facets of his game should be inhibited.

He is doing a reasonable job in that respect, but Hulk is proving wasteful around the box.

Andre Penner/Associated Press

Two or three excellent moves saw him presented with shooting opportunities against Cameroon, but hesitation saw defenders move in each time. On the final occurrence, Neymar was furious at his colleague's decision not to lay a hat-trick goal on a plate as he made a run through the centre. Hulk's night ended soon after.

Brazil simply cannot afford to be wasteful from now on as the quality of opponent rapidly increases. Squander two or three chances against Chile this coming weekend and the Selecao will be in real trouble.

Should Paulinho drop out as suggested, the pressure on Hulk's shoulders will only continue to grow. He has the faith of his manager, who has stuck by him through thick and thin over the past 18 months.

As the reality of Brazil's mammoth World Cup task becomes ever clearer, though, anything but a vastly improved performance will test Scolari's faith to breaking point. He has now been below-par for far too long and time is beginning to run out as we enter the knockout stage.