10 Burning Questons for Brazil Manager Dunga
Brazil will head to the Far East in the coming fortnight for fixtures with traditional rivals Argentina in Beijing and Japan in Singapore. For new manager Dunga, the two fixtures represent further tests of his new setup.
After a successful start, overcoming both Ecuador and Colombia 1-0 in USA earlier this month, the 1994 World Cup-winning captain will be keen to continue building momentum ahead of next summer's Copa America—the first key step of his four-year plan.
There is much still to come together in Brazil's planning for the next stage of their development, with Dunga needing to answer key questions.
Where, then, will his attention be focused in the weeks ahead?
What Does He Do About Thiago Silva?
Prior to the World Cup, Thiago Silva was not only Brazil's captain but also widely recognised as being one of the best centre-backs in the game. Despite missing out on his side's 7-1 defeat to Germany at the tournament, he came out of the tournament with his reputation diminished.
Dunga, it would appear, is not a particular fan. While it is understandable that he is not currently being selected, given that he is yet to play this season, stripping him of the captaincy would suggest he is no longer seen as quite so key to Brazil's planning.
"Nobody has a guaranteed place [in the squad]," ESPN Brasil (Portuguese) report Dunga as saying of his absence last week. "The quality of Thiago Silva is incontestable, he will be back with the national team when the right moment comes."
Given the continued excellence of Atletico Madrid's Miranda at club level, as well as promising showings with the national team alongside youngster Marquinhos, Dunga has decisions to make over the role of both Thiago Silva and David Luiz in the weeks ahead.
The Right-Back Issue
Porto right-back Danilo appears to be Dunga's favourite for the right-back berth at present, with Roma's Maicon having fallen foul of disciplinary measures during the new boss' first camp.
Danilo started the second of the side's fixtures in the U.S., taking on Ecuador, and he will this time be joined by CSKA Moscow's Mario Fernandes, called to the national side for the first time since rejecting a call-up in 2011.
Both are among the better prospects of Brazil's younger generation, but it is also true to say there is no truly outstanding candidate at the moment.
For the pair, though, it is a huge opportunity to make a firm impression in the coach's mind before the likes of Mayke, Fabinho and Rafael have their own opportunity to stake a claim to be Dani Alves' long-term replacement.
Can Robinho Still Cut It?
Suprisingly recalled to the Brazil setup under Dunga, Robinho managed just 13 minutes in the two games earlier this month. However, he has once more been selected to travel to Asia for the coming games.
There are major question marks over Robinho's suitability to play at the top level, having only truly excelled for the Selecao in Dunga's first spell at the helm. In the intervening years, he has done little of note for club or country.
Back in Brazil with Santos, it is not as if the one-time prodigy is banging down the door, scoring just twice in seven league games for the Paulista side.
His manager clearly believes in his talent, but it is now up to Robinho to repay that faith. It is very much sink or swim time, with many already believing he has already had too many chances to prove himself with the national team. This could well be the last one.
What Can Philippe Coutinho Offer?
After a stunning pre-season, it is fair to say that Philippe Coutinho has disappointed for Liverpool thus far this campaign. For all his talent, he is not influencing games as he can at his best.
Called to the national side once again for the coming games, Dunga will give the playmaker will be a chance to show what he can add to the national team.
Oscar's deputy, the onus is on the Vasco product to show how his creative thinking can benefit a team designed to play fast, counter-attacking football.
Last season, he excelled for Liverpool in a similar setup, but it is only by performing in the Canarinha that he will guarantee his long-term selection ahead of coming tournaments.
Should Goalkeeper Rafael Be Given a Chance to Challenge Jefferson?
Botafogo goalkeeper Jefferson looks set to be Dunga's first choice for the early part of his reign, but it is also important that the manager hands opportunities to others. Napoli's Rafael Cabral, as current back-up, leads the list of challengers.
Brazil face Copa Americas in each of the next two summers and must be prepared for potential injuries. Rafael, therefore, must be given the chance to add to his three international caps.
With two games coming up, it would perhaps be advisable to give Rafael a start against Japan to get some practice playing behind Brazil's current defensive unit.
The more experience he gets, the more the 24-year-old can also look to challenge Jefferson, which will create an atmosphere of healthy competition within the squad.
How to Beat Top Countries
The Confederations Cup aside, Brazil’s biggest issue in recent years has been beating sides traditionally seen as major powers of world football. Against Argentina in Beijing, they will encounter one such opponent.
With next summer’s Copa America in mind, the result of the tie in Beijing could be important to the confidence of the team heading into the competition. Brazil’s players need to believe they can beat their Argentine rivals.
Argentina will be full of confidence following an excellent World Cup showing and, in spite of the location, neither side will want to concede defeat to their neighbours. Dunga’s side will get a quick indication of their current level.
Are Ricardo Goulart and Everton Ribeiro International Quality?
The Cruzeiro duo of Everton Ribeiro (pictured, left) and Ricardo Goulart have played a major role in getting A Raposa to the top of the Brasileirao in 2014, having also won the competition last year.
Called up to the national team for the first time last time out, they were both given opportunities as a substitute, with Ribeiro standing out. The leading goal provider in the Brazilian top flight this year, his reputation is soaring.
The hope must be for both that, given they will sacrifice two potentially crucial league games to join up with the squad, they are given significant time to prove their worth.
In Brazil's new system featuring a fluid front four, both could be important players. Until they prove as much, though, there will be doubts over their suitability at international level.
What Can Dodo Offer the Selecao?
Inter Milan left-back Dodo has performed well in his 15 months in Italy, overcoming fears about his career post-serious knee injury to become a respected figure in Serie A.
His reward for those exertions will now be a place in the Brazil squad, likely as primary backup to Chelsea's Filipe Luis.
His first task, if given an opportunity in the two games ahead, will be to show what he can offer to the side that Luis perhaps can't. While the Chelsea man is an excellent all-round full-back, Dodo perhaps offers an increase in dynamism that could be useful in certain games.
If he establishes himself in the squad he could then capitalise on any lack of game time for his teammate in west London. His first challenge is to catch the eye, with Brazilian full-backs of a similar standard plentiful at the present time.
Ramires or Fernandinho: The Midfield Dilemma
Dunga has thus far shown a preference for the dynamism of Ramires in midfield alongside Luiz Gustavo. However, anyone who watches both on a weekly basis would be hard pushed to champion the Chelsea man's claims over those of Manchester City's Fernandinho.
It is, of course, a question of balance. However, while he may regularly play deeper for his club side, Fernandinho made his name as a box-to-box player. Stamina and mobility are not a concern.
Ramires has a good relationship with the coach and will likely continue in his starting role, but it would be no surprise to see Fernandinho handed opportunities to impress.
The two are effectively in a head-to-head battle for one berth and must use the coming friendlies to state their case.
Does Gil Have a Long-Term Role with the Squad
Corinthians defender Gil was a standout performer in Ligue 1 before being tempted back to his homeland early last year, where he has continued to impress with Corinthians.
His opportunity to state a case with the national team following his first call-up, though, amounted to a handful of minutes in an unfamiliar right-back role against Ecuador. Dunga would be well advised to test him while he has the chance—ahead of Thiago Silva's return.
One centre-back will almost certainly drop out to accommodate the returning Silva in Brazil's next squad, and it would be unfair not to give Gil a fair shot at earning his place.
David Luiz, Marquinhos and Miranda represent strong competition, but given the travelling time Brazil will face, there is no excuse not to rotate against Japan in Singapore.