Tuesday, May 11th will be a big day in international football. It is a day when many men will rejoice as they remain on their respective World Cup squads after the latest roster cuts. It will also be a day of great sadness for young players, injured stars and aging greats who will not be accompanying their teams to South Africa for the 2010 World Cup.
Before Coach Dunga makes his selections official for the Brazilian National Team, here is what to watch out for when the names are revealed:
Not much drama is to be expected in net for Brazil unless, of course, you consider the race for third string keeper to be exhilarating. Julio Cesar is the definite number one, and with good cause. While he may not be considered in the discussion of World's Greatest Goalkeepers, he often illustrates his greatness behind the Brazil backline. Following Cesar will be the impressive Heurelho Gomes who may be better known for his recent good form at Tottenham Hotspur in the English Premier League. All signs point to oft-criticized Doni getting the third spot. Brazilian fans would be remiss if they ever have to go this far into their depth at keeper, however.
At right back, Brazil may be stronger than any team in the world. With Maicon and Daniel Alves, Brazil has two options that would assuredly start for any other national team. Both defenders have a similar appeal for Coach Dunga as they provide scoring threats from the back. The suspense will not be concerning whether either of these men are named, but rather who will be on the first team come June 11th.
The Brazilian central defense is led by their team captain, Lucio. In seemingly every international competition, favored sides are led by an aging veteran force in the back. For Brazil, this is Lucio. While he may be advanced in age and on the back side of his career, he will add the leadership on the field that will be necessary when facing the likes of Portugal and Ivory Coast in the group stages. Joining him on the squad will be the other sure-thing, Juan. These two will hold down the Brazilian central defense. Suspense will be left for who Dunga decides to add to the mix, whether he will stick with perceived personal favorite Luisao or go with Thiago Silva or even Durval.
True decisions will have to be made at the left back position. No single star has been able to extend from the pack to make themselves a definite starter. The most likely choice will either be Lyon's Michael Bastos or Barcelona's Maxwell. Bastos' gives the Selecao another attacking threat while Maxwell brings the steadiness from a solid season in Spain.
The beauty of the Brazilian game generally comes from the dazzling abilities of the men in the middle. Advanced attacks begin here and develop into what everyone has come to expect from Brazil, goals. This said, Brazilian fans are nervous by the lack of stand outs within this version of the team. Free-flowing superstar Kaka is the only definite starter from among the myriad options that Dunga has at his disposal. Based on past matches and current form, it would not be surprising to see Gilberto Silva and Filipe Melo getting announced tomorrow. Fans of an attack oriented Brazilian side will find great opportunities to criticize Dunga for these choices as both men tend to play a more defensive style. This will leave even more on the shoulders of the constant attack machine Kaka. Rounding out the midfield will be left to some sort of combination of Ramirez, Josue and Kleberson for a more defensive flair or Elano, Julio Baptista and Marquinhos for a more traditional Brazilian midfield.
Dunga's most watched move will be in the midfield and will be his decision regarding Ronaldinho. A former FIFA World Player of the Year, Ronaldinho has, during different point of qualification, looked like the both the in-form legend of previous World Cup teams and an out-of-shape aging veteran with no business on one of the competition favorites. No matter the outcome, Dunga will surely be criticized. Leave Ronaldinho off the team and forever be faced with questions of what might have come from a last surge from one of the country's best players. Include Ronaldinho on the team and face the questions in the event that he is not up to standards. Based on recent form, expect the charismatic star to make the team. And don't be surprised if he makes an impact at some point in South Africa.
Through leading the team in scoring during qualification, Luis Fabiano has secured his spot at the top of the Brazilian team. He will act as the point player on most attacks and Dunga's strategy will likely be to have him flanked with a multitude of scoring threats. Chief among these fellow strikers will be the inconsistent Robinho. When at his best, Robinho will provide a spark like few in the game; otherwise, he can be lost on the pitch and neutralized. Nevertheless, he will surely be named to Dunga's 30-man squad. Despite critical comments from many, Adriano will most likely find a spot on this version of the Selecao.
After these three, the waters become much more murky. Brazil has many young stars who could provide inspiration for the team. Dunga could also go with a more veteran look up front. Expect the rest of the attacking force to come from Nilmar, Jo, Andre, Pato or Vagner Love.
What to watch most closely?
- Ronaldinho: In or out?
- Midfield: Defensive focus or attacking focus?
- Leftback: Who gets the nod?
- Strikers: Who joins Luis Fabiano up front?