Ranking the Brazil Players on Their World Cup Group-Stage Form
Brazil have completed stage one of their mission. They have reached the knockout rounds of the 2014 World Cup and are now just four games from being crowned champions of the world for a sixth time.
Thus far, though, performances have not always met expectations. However, there have been individuals within the selecao's ranks who have already lit up the tournament.
With three games down, it is a good opportunity to assess the players' contributions to date and assess who have been the standout performers.
Here, Bleacher Report ranks the players by performance thus far.
Tottenham midfielder Paulinho has had a terrible time of things over the past six months, losing form for both club and country. Worse still, he is set to lose his starting berth with the selecao having brought his under-par showings into the World Cup.
When at his best, Paulinho is the engine of the Brazil side. His ability to both track back and offer defensive cover and then run beyond the forward line into the area has been central to Scolari's planning. At present, he is a pale imitation of the star performer of 2013.
Fernandinho looks set to relieve him of his duties after an impressive display as a substitute against Cameroon. If so, it would be difficult to see Paulinho regaining his spot again this tournament.
15. Dani Alves
Given his experience and long-term excellence, the standard of Dani Alves' World Cup showings thus far can perhaps be considered the most disappointing of all.
Not only has he provided little or no attacking impetus, but has also been caught out of position continually in defence. Even when in place, he has too often been beaten with goals conceded against Cameroon and Croatia coming from his flank.
Maicon may not be the most inspiring alternative, but support for Alves' axing is growing. Too often poor in a Brazil shirt in years gone by, fans have been quick to turn on him this time around. Major improvement is required.
Zenit forward Hulk has some mitigation for his poor displays given that he missed the second group game with Mexico through injury. That would be all well and good, though, if this wasn't the continuation of a trend.
Scolari has to bear some of the responsibility for Hulk's ineffective showings having asked him to fulfil a selfless role on the flank rather than play to his natural attacking inclinations.
However, it is clear that the striker is low in confidence when in a Brazil shirt and the manager cannot be blamed for the several attacking moves to have broken down at his feet. He is another whose starting place is coming under severe threat.
Trusted by Scolari, Ramires has played some part in all three games but has failed to make an impression on the tournament.
Most frequently used as a rotation option for Hulk on the flank, he is a solid alternative but fails to add attacking impetus to a selecao already lacking in creativity.
His one start against Mexico lasted just 45 minutes.
One substitute appearance apiece at the competition but largely ineffective.
Given half the clash with Croatia to impress and a further half an hour against Mexico, but he ended up conceding possession more than he would have wished. Another player who will be hoping for another opportunity to impress.
Brazil's No. 9 was hammered in the press ahead of the third group game with Cameroon but once more responded with a goal—albeit slightly fortunately.
Fred has never been a player to contribute much outside of the box and, besides goals, he only really offers the ability to hold the ball up when hit long. For many Brazil supporters, his inclusion is seen as indicative of the country's current striking woes.
Just as at the Confederations Cup, it took Fred until game three to get off the mark. The question is now whether the Fluminense forward can repeat his heroics of last summer once again. Given his record in a Brazil shirt, it would be no surprise if he should.
9. David Luiz
Chelsea defender David Luiz has been typically full of passion and exuberance thus far at the tournament, but he has contributed relatively little to his side's cause.
Both central defenders have played more long balls than they are accustomed to and not always successfully, largely due to the failings of those in midfield, while Luiz has had moments where he has briefly lost his man in the area.
With opposition forwards set to improve dramatically from this point in, Luiz can be properly evaluated in a game or two's time.
8. Thiago Silva
Brazilian captain Thiago Silva has had his rocky moments thus far in the tournament, noticeably allowing nerves to get the better of him early in the opening-day clash with Croatia.
A couple of poor touches aside, he will also feel he should have done much more to prevent Joel Matip scoring from a low ball across the face of goal. Positionally, it was a sloppy mistake from a player of his ability.
In general, though, he has been his usual unruffled self and as commanding as ever at dealing with opposition attacks. By his high standards, though, it is fair to say we are yet to see vintage Thiago Silva at the 2014 World Cup.
For whatever reason, Luiz Felipe Scolari would appear to have decided that Willian's primary contribution towards Brazil's World Cup effort will be as a substitute, in spite of some positive displays from the Chelsea man.
While his time on the pitch at the World Cup has been limited, he often offers the side a visible lift when brought on and has combined well with Neymar in particular. His primary role, though, would appear to be as a backup for club colleague Oscar.
He will hope he has done enough to earn more playing time later on in the competition, in spite of his current reserve status.
The better performing of Brazil's two full-backs, Marcelo is also yet to hit the extraordinary heights of some of his performances for club and country over the past year.
At his best, Marcelo is a phenomenon bombing forward on the flanks. Thus far though, partly due to Scolari's insistence on moving Neymar in-field in the opening two games, he has been somewhat subdued.
Defensively, at least, he has been more than up to the task thus far.
5. Julio Cesar
Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar has his doubters, but he has been largely fault-free for Brazil over the past 18 months and has enjoyed a decent World Cup to date.
In truth, he has been rarely called into action and has on a couple of occasions shown his weakness when coming to claim high balls into the area. As a shot-stopper, though, he continues to impress.
His quiet tournament will soon become a lot busier in the knockout rounds and it is then that we shall see whether Scolari's faith in the veteran gloveman is justified or not.
Such has been the dearth of standout performers for Brazil that Fernandinho ranks as the side's fourth best player in the group stage despite making just two substitute appearances.
It is largely for his career-changing performance against Cameroon that he ranks so highly, altering the dynamic of Brazil's play entirely with his half-time introduction and also getting himself on the scoresheet late on.
With that one 45-minute demonstration of what he can offer the selecao, he appears to have catapulted himself above misfiring Paulinho in Scolari's plans and into a first-team berth. Now he must kick on and justify his coach's decision.
3. Luiz Gustavo
Wolfsburg midfielder Luiz Gustavo doesn't get enough credit for his work at the heart of the Brazil midfield and has once again shown this tournament how important he can be for the selecao.
There is nothing elaborated about Gustavo's game. His passing is unspectacular and he is highly unlikely to grab a goal for his side, but he will continually plug gaps and patrol in front of his defence.
With Brazil's full-backs off-colour so far, his role has been even more important than ever. He may not please all fans, but he is relentless in his tidy work at the base of the midfield and has made himself virtually indispensable to this Brazil side.
That Oscar is so high in the list says much of Brazil's general performance levels given that the Chelsea man has only really stood out once in three games thus far.
Against Croatia in the opening match of the tournament, he was the man of the match in the eyes of most observers, albeit with Neymar claiming the official prize. His contribution in that success did much to smooth Brazil's passage to the second round.
The 22-year-old has so far played three different roles in three games and will hope to now remain settled in his favoured central berth. It is from there that he has produced his best performances for Brazil over the past two years.
Brazil's one truly outstanding performer of the competition thus far, Neymar has justified his pre-World Cup superstar status with four goals and two man-of-the-match awards in the group stage.
Luiz Felipe Scolari will be delighted to have his side's biggest weapon in such outstanding form, but will also hope that the selecao do not continue to rely so heavily on one sole outlet.
Thus far, Neymar has done all that has been asked of him and more, making light of the pressure he is under. However, the difficult stage is now to come.
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