Opinion, by Robbie Blakeley
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – May 7th is the scheduled day for Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari to name his 23-man squad for the upcoming FIFA World Cup. Following the Confederations Cup success, twelve wins in their last thirteen outings and 39 goals netted in those games, the gamble of appointing the 2002 World Cup winner is paying off.
Triumph has also bred familiarity. Barring injury, Felipão’s first-team is a virtual given after such an excellent run of form for the Brazilian national side.
On June 12th, when the Seleçao take to the field at the brand new Arena Corinthians in São Paulo against Croatia in the World Cup opener, the teamsheet should read: Júlio César; Daniel Alves, Thiago Silva, David Luiz, Marcelo; Luiz Gustavo, Paulinho; Hulk, Oscar, Neymar; Fred.
But whilst his first-choice team is confirmed, what of the overall squad? Scolari admitted a couple of months ago that there were still six or seven places that needed filling.
All may only be places in the squad with no guarantee of starting a match, but in the most important World Cup tournament for the Brazilians in over sixty years, any opportunity to be part of the festivities is to be snatched at. Scolari has doubts, proven by his most recent friendly selections, in a number of areas, as he strives to find the perfect blend for the summer.
Goalkeeper, right-back, center-half, left-back, holding midfield and playmaker are all positions that were expected to only be filled in the closing days before Scolari makes his final call. We are now just a week away from that date; audition time is drawing to a close.
Diego Cavalieri and Victor are fighting it out for the final goalkeeping berth. Likewise Maicon and Rafinha for the reserve right-back spot.
All players who are on the fringes have played international football over the last twelve months. But could there be space for an ace in the hole in Scolari’s pack?
In central defense, Miranda, of Atletico Madrid, is on the brink of a monumental achievement, with the Brazilian defender putting in consistently high displays throughout the season. If the Vicente Calderon side, currently top of the league, cross the finish line at the head of the La Liga pack, it will be the first time in the decade the Spanish title has been wrested from megapowers Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Further forward, in one of the playmaking roles, Scolari may be convinced to find a place for a youngster who has been in scintillating form for the majority of the season.
Phililippe Coutinho, of English club Liverpool, has helped propel his side to the brink of the Premier League title. So far he has been steadfastly ignored by Felipão in favor of the likes of Shakhtar Donetsk’s Bernard, a lightweight option who has thus far flattered to deceive on the international stage.
But if Liverpool do lift a first league trophy since 1990 Coutinho’s contribution cannot be ignored. He has shone on the big occasions, turning in man-of-the-match performances in games against Arsenal and Manchester City.
Can it be enough to convince the international boss he is worth a roll of the dice come World Cup kick-off? He has forged a fruitful union with teammate’s Daniel Sturridge and Luís Suarez; he could very well be capable of the same feat with Neymar and Fred in that famous yellow shirt.