1) Will Luis Fabiano Regain his Scoring Touch?
The Brazilian No. 9 hasn’t scored since he put in two against Argentina last September—that makes five international games without scoring.
Many had pegged him to be a favorite to win the Golden Boot, but in recent games, Robinho has been the one that has found the touch.
Coming into the Cup, there were questions surrounding his health, but he appears to be healthy. In Brazil’s two pre-Cup friendlies, he has hardly touched the ball.
This is likely due to Brazil’s difficulties in the transition game—bringing the ball forward from the defensive sector to midfield.
When players like Melo and Gilberto Silva are not completing passes, this isolates Fabiano up front.
And more recently, Robinho has been the center of the offense, since he has been able to use the left wing to his advantage.
2) Will Felipe Melo be starting by the second game?
Melo has easily been the poorest of Brazil’s starting 11 in the recent warm-up friendlies. Besides a poor season at Juventus, he also has only looked good in a handful of Brazil games—a few in the Confederations Cup when he broke out—and the qualifier against Peru, where he scored a goal.
Dunga’s system needs Melo to pass effectively. The fact that he’s not completing his passes bogs down the whole midfield.
Besides his poor passing, he appears to be a loose cannon—a player who is highly emotional and not afraid to speak out—insulting members of the media, and not to mention his discipline on the pitch. His rough play could very well lead to a suspension.
And finally, he is not providing adequate cover for Michel Bastos, who is not even a competent defender on the left wing. Melo and Bastos have to work together—if not, this exposes Brazil’s left wing, which is already not the best.
In the end, this is probably the most pressing area—the transition game—the saida de bola. When it works, it works perfectly (see the Tanzania game—Gilberto Silva’s excellent pass on Robinho’s first goal; Josue’s pass on Ramires’ first goal).
But more often than not, it hasn’t been clicking.
3) Will Michel Bastos grow as a defender?
Ever since Bastos has been playing in France, he has found success as a left-winger, and for Lyon, he has even played up front. Naturally, this raises questions about his defensive abilities.
Along with Grafite, he is the most inexperienced international on the team and his familiarity with Dunga’s tactics is questionable at best.
Occasionally, he has looked lost on the wing—since he can’t defend, he is afraid of letting loose, something that Maicon has no problem doing on the opposite flank.
So, at times, we are essentially seeing the worst of Bastos. If he’s timid offensively, we don’t see what he’s capable on the offensive end.
And since he’s not getting the defensive support from Melo, the entire team suffers. This was evident in both of the friendlies.
4) Will Lucio and Juan be able to press further up?
Dunga has historically used the players deeper in their defensive sector. And for Inter, the same goes with respect to Lucio. Let’s face it, Brazil’s centerbacks are not known for their speed. They are physically imposing.
Lucio only really seems to show his true speed whenever he comes forward on one of his trademark, calamitous runs. In the past two friendlies, Dunga has been pushing the team forward—Lucio and Juan/Luisao have often been seen close to midfield.
In the Zimbabwe game in particular, Lucio looked very slow and ill-prepared to defend against the speedy wingers that he faced.
Dunga appears to be trying a new defensive scheme here—one that will likely be used against European teams.
If the defensive duo doesn’t get comfortable, Brazil's otherwise rock-solid defense could be vulnerable against speedier wide teams, such as Portugal, Argentina and especially the Netherlands.
5) Is Kaka ready?
Kaka has hardly played this year and his recovery from two different muscular injuries has been a slow one.
He wasn’t very good against Zimbabwe, but the fact that he looked okay and lasted 45 minutes was promising. Against Tanzania, he lasted the full 90 and made a few runs and got a lucky goal.
But there’s no doubt that his passing and speed are off. Brazil may be okay without Kaka’s trademark runs, but he has to start completing those passes because as of right now, Brazil’s transition game is struggling.
If Melo, Silva and Kaka are not hitting the passes, well, things will be much more difficult.
Hopefully, Kaka can regain his touch in time for the Ivory Coast game, which is the likeliest scenario. With that said, Baptista has looked well as Kaka's substitute, but his presence won't bring too much comfort for Brazilians.
Dunga has conducted some intense training sessions since the Tanzania game one week ago.
Tonight, the players will conduct a light training session at Ellis Park, to familiarize the players with the pitch and weather. The temperatures should drop to below freezing for tomorrow’s game.
For tomorrow's game, North Korea will likely play a very defensive formation, which Brazil has struggled with at times. The goals, as many are predicting, will come from set pieces, which have been Brazil's forte under Dunga.
Fortunately for Brazil, the North Koreans aren't the tallest players, because Brazil definitely struggled in dead-ball situations against Ireland in March.
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