Dunga Must Explore Options to Find New Brazil No. 9 After Fred Retirement

Robbie Blakeley@@rio_robbieSpecial to Bleacher ReportAugust 5, 2014

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JULY 22: Carlos Dunga is introduced as the new coach of the Brazilian national football team during a press conference at the Brazilian Football Confederation - CBF headquarters on July 22, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)
Buda Mendes/Getty Images

The fallout from Brazil's World Cup failure has had far-reaching effects. Having spelt the end for coach Luiz Felipe Scolari and his training staff, the 2002 World Cup winner's exit was precipitated by first-choice striker Fred.

The Fluminense idol became the scapegoat for a Brazilian campaign that saw only Neymar emerge with his reputation enhanced. Now, as Dunga begins his second reign steering the Selecao ship, one of his most pressing responsibilities is to look for a new leading front man.

It is far from an easy task.

There was incredulity in some corners even before a ball was kicked at the World Cup that Fred could be the No. 9 for the most successful team in football history. His simplistic poacher's style divided fans, even after his five goals at the Confederations Cup last year.

Fred became the scapegoat for Brazil's World Cup campaign.
Fred became the scapegoat for Brazil's World Cup campaign.Buda Mendes/Getty Images

Ultimately, his lack of movement across the final third left him isolated for large periods and Brazil appeared to be playing with 10 men, especially in the second half of their knockout tie with Chile.

But Brazil's semi-final second half was one of the most surreal scenarios imaginable. Both teams were playing out time, Germany waiting to celebrate, the hosts hoping the nightmare would be over before long.

Robinho was unlucky to miss out on the World Cup squad, and could see himself back in favour under new coach Dunga.
Robinho was unlucky to miss out on the World Cup squad, and could see himself back in favour under new coach Dunga.Elsa/Getty Images

In the stands, the contest decided before half an hour had been played, disbelief turned to animosity. Each time he touched the ball, a chorus of boos rained down upon Fred.

Whether the 30-year-old was effectively bullied into international retirement remains dubious. Suffice to say the tournament did not go as planned for the forward, and he will not be pulling on the famous yellow shirt again.

His decision may bring joy and relief to some, but nevertheless begs the question: Who will replace him as the spearhead?

In exactly one month, Dunga faces the first test of his second spell in charge of the national side in a friendly against Colombia in Miami.

During his first reign, the 1994 World Cup winner, like Scolari, favoured a target-man-type centre-forward.

But there are precious few options available should Dunga decide to revert to type with a 4-2-2-2, the “Magic Rectangle” formation, or stick with Scolari's preferred 4-2-3-1.

At the 2010 World Cup, Luis Fabiano led the line, partnered by Robinho. The latter was perhaps unlucky to miss out on this year's tournament and there may well be a path back to Selecao duty for the 30-year-old.

But in terms of potential No. 9 predators the barrel is almost empty. Alexandre Pato is having a tough-enough time getting regular first-team football with Sao Paulo. Jonas, of Valencia, is continually overlooked for national duty, despite bearing remarkably similar characteristics to Fred.

Dunga may decide to build his attack solely around Neymar.
Dunga may decide to build his attack solely around Neymar.Gabriel Rossi/Getty Images

Over at the Morumbi, Pato's teammate Alan Kardec has been earmarked as a possible Selecao option since the beginning of the year, as reported by Placar (link in Portuguese), as has Palmeiras forward Leandro, and both could well get a chance under Dunga before 2014 is out.

But with such a dearth of options for the coveted No. 9 shirt, the coach could be forgiven for thinking a change in shape may be needed. At a time when Brazilian football could feasibly be described as being in a slump, Neymar remains the team's craque, their go-to guy in times of trouble.

He as good as carried the team on his slim shoulders throughout a floundering World Cup campaign. It would make sense to build an attack based around the Barcelona forward, drawing the best out of his game, whether that means the No. 10 starting wide on the left or in a more central role.

Alan Kardec, of Sao Paulo, could be given a chance as the new Selecao No. 9.
Alan Kardec, of Sao Paulo, could be given a chance as the new Selecao No. 9.Friedemann Vogel/Getty Images

Dunga's successor back in 2010, Mano Menezes, had dispensed with the idea of using a fixed striker for the focal point of the attack, and was building a team based around four floating forwards featuring at least one experienced head, Ronaldinho or Kaka.

Ideally with four years of preparation until the next World Cup, it is an idea worth revisiting, utilising Neymar, at just 22, as that experienced leader. With Fred taken out of the equation, and assuming Neymar, Oscar and Hulk retain their places for the time being at least, there is one gap to be filled, although the latter two's first-team security may also be up for scrutinisation in the not-too-distant future.

In a loose 4-2-4, Philippe Coutinho of Liverpool, Cruzeiro's Everton Ribeiro and even the old face of Robinho become viable options. All have a versatility that will certainly be of use now audition time has rolled around again.