Cataclysmic, seismic, ground-breaking. Scarring, humiliating, traumatising.
Pick whichever enforcing words you wish, the outcome is the same: The World Cup semi-final defeat to Germany, by a staggering 7-1 scoreline, has forced the nation of Brazil to realise they are quite some distance off being the world-beaters they wish to be.
Even as one of the final four, they never truly convinced and looked utterly lost without their key attacker, Neymar, and key defender, Thiago Silva. Once the apologies are done, the rebuild must begin with an eye on the Copa America next summer, and that must all begin with the third-place match against Netherlands.
Obviously, Felipe Scolari will still be picking the team and tactics for the final World Cup match—but it seems unlikely he will remain in place past the summer. A proud footballing nation such as Brazil will almost certainly pick from within to find their new manager.
For now, though, there will be no sea change in approach and tactics—but Scolari must pick a team who can not only get a positive result, but also work far harder and remain a more compact unit than the awful showing against Germany.
He, as much as anybody, needs to pick himself up and put in an impressive showing from the bench, having been resolute, unyielding and ultimately unsuccessful in dramatically altering games from the sidelines during the tournament.
Who Faces the Axe?
Older players, smaller names, unfavoured faces. Some of this Brazil squad will play no further part on the international stage following the culmination of the World Cup.
Former international Juninho surmised as much, as per BBC Sport:
It will be difficult to recover. Some players I don't think will be back to wear the Brazilian shirt. It is wrong now to criticise the players. On the field Germany taught us how to play football, we have to learn from that.
Germans played the way we liked to play so we need to sit back, see what is wrong with Brazilian football. Especially in the academies, the way we teach them to play. A lot of change will need to come.
The first casualties will likely include goalkeeper Julio Cesar, 34, full-back Maicon, 32, and striker Fred, 30. Others, such as Jo, Paulinho and Dani Alves disappointed during the tournament but likely have a future if they pick up club form—though there will be no shortage of rivals for Paulinho's spot in centre-midfield in particular.
No Lack of Talent
It shouldn't be forgotten that Brazil won the Confederations Cup a year ago playing good football, with a strong side and a settled squad—but it didn't come together at the World Cup. Even so, in Silva and Neymar they possess two genuine world-class talents, with a lot of good players around them.
Willian, Bernard, Oscar, Fernandinho, Marcelo and others are all likely to form the bulk of the squad going forward, but players who just missed out on the World Cup squad will hope to be offered the chance to show they can be part of the rebuild.
Lucas Moura, Marquinhos and Fernando are all youthful talents, there is depth in the full-back areas to consider—even if not all applicants have really had a look-in yet—and the local-based supply line doesn't show any particular sign of slowing down with exports, hyped names and real talents.
The biggest dilemmas for whomever takes the team forward could well be who plays in goal, and who plays up front, with no particular standout names in either position.
Either way, it is time to try something new.
Perhaps Scolari gives Hulk a run at centre-forward, perhaps the midfield alignment is altered for this game. A different shape, a different approach and, for sure, more creativity in the final third are all on the cards. David Luiz being shifted forward from centre-back to a deep midfield role would be sensible—but again goes at odds with Scolari's unshifting selection policy.
The third-place game can only be a final chance to thank the fans and leave with their heads not quite as low as they were post-semi-final, but for a few players it's also an opportunity to prove they shouldn't be part of the cull.
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