World Cup 2014: Who Will Help Brazil Capture the Cup? the Top 25 Brazilians
Throughout the roughly 100-year history of the beautiful game, the Selecao have been regarded as the most formidable football side in the world.
Not only defeating but dominating their opponents in most contests, Brazilian squads always consist of 11 players who can each pass, dribble, and shoot.
In the past two World Cups, Brazil has surprisingly not advanced past the quarterfinals, yet with the 2014 World Cup to be held in Brazil, they will surely be heavily favored to once again hoist the majestic FIFA World Cup Trophy.
While Brazil currently lacks a superstar in the mold of Pele or Ronaldo, here is a list of the top 25 players who will likely play an important role in the shaping the future of Brazilian football.
Winner of the 2002 World Cup and the 2006 Champions League with Barcelona, Ronaldhino makes this list as a result of his cumulative contributions to the game.
At age 31, El Gaucho still has several solid footballing years remaining in his career, so it would have been nice to see him continue his career in Serie A or perhaps in the English Premier League (EPL) with Blackburn Rovers.
24. Heurelho Gomes
However, the Tottenham keeper has played a central role in his side's Champions' League success.
Specifically, his string of sensational saves in the return leg of Spurs' round-of-16 match-up against AC Milan allowed an over-matched Tottenham side to advance to the quarterfinals.
The hard-tackling midfielder has deservedly earned a regular spot in the Chelsea outfit as either a holding or box-to-box midfielder.
However, with Michael Essien and John Obi Mikel already cast into primarily defensive midfield roles and Chelsea legend Frank Lampard not getting any younger, it would be nice to see Ramires develop into a more attack-minded player.
22. Michel Bastos
The talented Olympique Lyonnais player has used his impressive pace and howitzer left foot to compile an impressive total of 20 goals from his right wing position over the past two seasons.
However, playing for a Brazilian World Cup squad loaded with offensive talent, Bastos demonstrated his versatility this past summer by successfully occupying the wing back position opposite of Maicon.
21. Luis Fabiano
Perhaps the most under-appreciated player in the world, Luis Fabiano quietly scored a combined total of eight goals for Brazil in the 2009 Confederation's Cup and the 2010 World Cup.
Yet, currently at age 30, he appears too old to secure a move from his current side Sevilla to a bigger club such as Madrid or Barcelona.
Nevertheless, he continues to perform well for Los Rojiblancos accounting for 50 goals over the past three seasons.
Having just recently returned to Jose Mourinho's squad, the 29-year-old has performed well in several recent league contests but has been rumored to be surplus to requirements at the Bernabeu.
However, with his hefty transfer fee and ridiculously high wages keeping potential bidders at bay, I expect the versatile playmaker to combine with Cristiano Ronaldo to eventually help Los Blancos return the La Liga and Champions League titles to Madrid.
Though not earning as much playing time as his twin brother Rafael, the 20-year-old Man U wing back has taken advantage of his opportunities.
Most recently in the Champions League semifinal against Scalke and in an EPL heavyweight bout against defending champions Chelsea, Fabio has demonstrated both the intensity to defend vigorously and the pace to lead the counterattacks.
Look for Fabio to eventually replace Patrice Evra as United's first choice left back.
Similarly taking advantage of limited opportunities, Sandro performed well as a holding midfielder throughout Tottenham's Champions' League campaign.
He recently scored his first goal for Spurs with a spectacular long range strike against Chelsea, but manager Harry Redknapp appeared mortified that he had moved so far into attack leaving the defense vulnerable to a counterattack.
Since Tottenham will likely not return to the Champions' League next season, I suspect the young Brazilian will generate a great deal of interest from both Milanese sides as they look to replace aging incumbents in the central midfield.
17. Philippe Coutinho
A budding No. 10, Coutinho's emergence as a top-class footballer this season has unfortunately been overshadowed by Inter Milan's poor form.
At only 18 years old, Coutinho dribbles as if the ball is a mere extension of his leg, regularly maneuvering between several defenders while continuing to maintain possession.
I would expect him to occupy a prominent role in Inter's future plans as Samuel Eto'o, Diego Milito, and Dejan Stankovic reach the twilight stages of their careers.
Largely regarded as the best fullback in the world, Maicon has served as a more than adequate replacement to his predecessor, Roberto Carlos.
Swinging in lethal crosses for both club and country, Maicon would have earned a top-five spot if he had not been utterly and completely humiliated by Tottenham winger Gareth Bale in the Champions League group stage.
Nevertheless, Maicon's mere presence usually alters the game by forcing the opposing team's wingers to play far more conservatively in order to prevent his dangerous forays forward.
15. Júlio César
While not quite demonstrating the same range as Edwin Van der Sar or Iker Casillas, Júlio César is still an elite keeper.
Remarkably consistent for both Inter Milan and Brazil, his mistake against Holland in the 2010 World Cup quarterfinals was highly unusual and perhaps cost Brazil the chance to capture their 6th World Cup.
However, he was spectacular for Inter Milan throughout their 2009-2010 Treble-winning campaign, most notably denying Bayern Munich's Thomas Muller an equalizer from close range in the second half of the Champions' League (CL) Final.
César also assisted Diego Milito's opening goal in the CL Final with a punt which traveled 3/4 of the pitch.
After four seasons and over 100 appearances for Liverpool, Lucas has finally seemed to reach his full potential as a footballer.
Playing as a box-to-box midfielder, the 24-year-old is a superb tackler whose work rate and deft touch allow him to quickly convert opponent breaks into Liverpool counterattacks.
With Liverpool now armed with strikers Luis Suarez and Andrew Carroll, look for Lucas to regularly provide them with the service which unlocks the opposing team's defense.
13. Renato Augusto
Another unheralded Brazilian, Renato Augusto has quietly marshaled an underrated Bayer Leverkeusen squad which currently sits second in the Bundesliga table. A pure number 10, his pace and touch enable him to create scoring opportunities for both himself and teammates where most other players would be dispossessed. At age 22, he is quite young and seemingly destined for a move to a bigger club. Additionally, with his transfer fee likely to be in the region of £20 million (as opposed to at least £50 million for similar players such as Argentinian Javier Pastore), he would come at a huge discount to a major team such as Manchester United or Liverpool.
12. Dani Alves
Playing from touchline to touchline, Dani Alves uses his powerful pace to open space on the Barcelona right flank.
Though his crosses and free kicks are wildly inconsistent, his shameful willingness to simulate fouls makes him a perpetual nuisance even when he is playing poorly.
For instance, in a recent Champions' League match against Real Madrid, Dani Alves flailed around in apparent agony after being tackled by Pepe.
While the referee showed Pepe a red card, Alves was stretchered off of the field only to return within minutes.
A stalwart defender, Alex will probably earn more regular playing time alongside countryman David Luiz as John Terry reaches the latter stages of his career.
Replacing Luiz at halftime during a recent bout with Man U, Alex did well to shadow Wayne Rooney and made a crucial sliding save which would have put the game to bed.
He has also developed into somewhat of a dead ball specialist with his free kicks deadly when taken within 30 yards of goal.
Defending the world's best players for the past 10 years, the 6'2" 33-year-old is surprisingly agile.
However, his 2002 Champions League Final goal for Bayer Leverkeusen and his game-winning goal for Brazil in the 2009 Confederation's Cup prove he is capable of moving forward to collect critical goals.
Throughout his time at United, Rafael has always demonstrated the capacity to move forward into attack, but the 20-year-old only recently proved (this season) that he can defend as well.
If he can avoid injury, he will retain his post as United's first choice right back for the next decade.
8. Alexandre Pato
A pure No. 9, Pato has flourished throughout his tenure with AC Milan.
An integral part of Milan's Scudetto-winning side, Pato has bagged 15 goals for the Rossoneri this season.
Consistently demonstrating a knack for scoring difficult goals, don't be surprised when he continues to attract serious suitors from Spain and England.
7. David Luiz
Though the former Benfica center half was woefully exposed by Chicharito in Chelsea's most recent defeat to Man U, Luiz has been solid since moving to Stamford Bridge.
While his tackling and work rate are both superior, his ability to score using his head or his feet distinguishes him from his colleagues.
Look for him to form a long term partnership with fellow countryman Alex in the Chelsea central defense.
The talented 21-year-old forward has recently begun to generate interest from Italy, Spain, and England following his recent run of good form for both Santos FC and the Brazilian national team.
Generally vying for accuracy over power, Ganso regularly finds the back of the net from well outside the 18 with his lethal left foot.
Don't be surprised if Chelsea or Real Madrid snap him up this summer with the expectation that he can lead a successful Champions League campaign.
Flourishing under new manager Jose Mourinho, Marcelo has evolved from a relatively unknown fullback to arguably the best left back in the world.
Constantly moving forward, Marcelo is largely responsible for providing Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo with the service to perpetually create scoring opportunities.
With Marcelo occupying the left flank and Dani Alves or Maicon on the right side of the field, look for the 2014 Brazilian World Cup side to keep opponents pinned deep into their own half of the pitch.
One of the most recognizable faces in the current Brazilian squad, Robinho has always represented his country well despite occasionally struggling at the club level.
Following a short loan spell with childhood club Santos, Robinho secured a move away from dreaded Manchester City to Milan where he has resurrected his brilliant career.
His opening goal against Holland in the 2010 World Cup quarterfinals should have been sufficient to send Brazil through to the semis, but a monumental second-half collapse nullified his neat finishing.
Though not quite as lethal as his predecessor, Ronaldo, Robinho is a bonafide star who may even captain Brazil for the 2014 World Cup.
3. Thiago Silva
The third AC Milan player in the top 10, Thiago Silva is tremendously strong both in the air and on the ground.
Unlike most fellow central defenders, he can catch and dispossess some of the fastest forwards in the world without drawing a card.
Also, when moving forward into attack, he demonstrates remarkable composure in front of goal.
As Lúcio approaches the end of his career, look for Thiago Silva to replace him in the Brazilian first team.
First watching Neymar in a friendly between my Yanks and the Selecao last year, I was amazed by how easily the then 18-year-old Neymar penetrated our back line.
Bagging two more international goals in a friendly against Scotland Neymar possesses the world class speed and dribbling skills, to fill the void in the Brazilian side created by Ronaldo's retirement.
Watch the video and decide for yourself, but I suspect he will secure a big money move away from childhood club Santos to join a major European side.
Surprisingly not well known, this winger/striker has the speed to run by you, the touch to run around you, and the strength to run through you.
Starring for FC Porto over the past two seasons, Hulk will undoubtedly secure a move to a major side in the near future.
By 2014, his fitting nickname and irresistible skills should endear him to fans throughout the world as the new face of Brazilian football.