Liverpool midfielder Philippe Coutinho has been called up for new Brazil coach Dunga's first squad, per the Reds' official Twitter account (h/t retired footballer Luis Garcia), his first national call-up since 2010 when he made his debut.
The 22-year-old attacking midfielder was omitted for the Selecao in Luiz Felipe Scolari's World Cup squad and is now part of a new-look Brazil squad, with only 10 of the 23-man World Cup squad retained for friendlies against Colombia and Ecuador next month.
Brazil at World Cup
Brazil's weaknesses at the World Cup were there for all to see—highly debated both during and since. Aside from the defensive weaknesses, David Luiz's consistently brainless style of play and their lack of a centre-forward, what Scolari's side really missed was a creative spark in midfield.
Exactly what Coutinho had been providing for Liverpool over the months leading up to the World Cup.
Great call, well deserved. Brasil missed a player like him at the World Cup. https://t.co/uXc1HRSV6G— Luis Garcia (@LuchoGarcia14) August 19, 2014
The Brazil XI that was humiliated by Germany in the semi-final featured Bernand, Fernandinho/Paulinho, Oscar and Hulk. How Coutinho was behind all of those is a question only Scolari can answer.
Presumably the former Brazil boss had missed the former Inter Milan player's impressive form for Liverpool in 2013/14.
Of course, from a Liverpool perspective, Coutinho's omission from the World Cup could very much be a blessing. He has benefited from a full pre-season, easily the standout performer for Brendan Rodgers' side across their eight friendlies and will have a point to prove this campaign.
There's also no World Cup "hangover" per-se, in terms of both mental tiredness or physical exhaustion. Coutinho is looking fresh for the 2014/15 campaign.
Coutinho appearance in Brazil squad long overdue. Offers more than Oscar and others, for me.— Colin Spreag (@ColinSpreag) August 19, 2014
Oscar vs. Coutinho
One of the players Coutinho is competing with in the Brazil squad is Chelsea's Oscar. Using Squawka's comparison matrix, we look at who contributed more during the 2013/14 Premier League season—they both made 33 appearances so a fair comparison too.
- Coutinho created more chances (64 vs. 48)
- Coutinho had more assists (7 vs. 2)
- Coutinho made more key passes (57 vs. 48)
- Coutinho made more successful tackles (56 vs. 49)
- Coutinho had more successful take-ons (59 vs. 25)
- Coutinho made more interceptions (16 vs. 7)
- Oscar scored more goals (8 vs. 5)
- Oscar had a better shot accuracy percentage (45 percent vs. 38 percent)
Those final two stats, the only two were Oscar is superior show the clear weakness in Coutinho's game; his finishing is, to say the least, inconsistent. Or more, consistently poor—especially from distance. It's a major part of his game that needs improving.
Aside from that, Coutinho comes out as far the stronger player, contributing more to his team.
Development at Liverpool
Coutinho is another example of the excellent management and coaching of Brendan Rodgers at Liverpool.
Signed from Inter in January 2013, Coutinho was a very raw attacking midfielder. A season and a half later, he's become a key man at Anfield and capable of occupying a more central, deeper role in midfield.
Speaking this pre-season, Rodgers called Coutinho "the brain in our team" in an interview with the official LFC website, and earlier this year, he made complimentary comments likening Coutinho to Real Madrid playmaker Luka Modric, as per The Guardian's Andy Hunter:
"I look at him as a [Luka] Modric type. And when you look at Modric over four years at Tottenham he got 13 goals [in the league] but his influence was massive and Coutinho is of that type. He will naturally get more goals but he is a wonderful player for us, he is a key who opens up many things in a game."
As he's progressed, Coutinho has been given more responsibility in the side, as Rodgers begins to trust him to do the work off the ball too; see the Merseyside derby at home in January as somewhat of a watershed moment for the Brazilian.
Lining up alongside Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson in the midfield three, Coutinho was all-action, putting in tackles and seemingly enjoying the physical elements of the game.
That midfield trio were in place again for the 5-1 thrashing of Arsenal and the 4-0 humbling of Tottenham at Anfield too. It could become the preferred line-up for Rodgers this campaign for certain games, especially at home.
Asked Lucas about Coutinho's future with Brazilian national team last month - he felt Dunga would make him central to their push for 2018.— Kristian Walsh (@Kristian_Walsh) August 19, 2014
It's in the midfield three where Coutinho's future perhaps lies, both for club and country, especially taking into consideration those quotes from Rodgers relating to Modric—a player who has similarly dropped into a deeper role for Real Madrid after playing further ahead previously in his career.