By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Dunga, the new coach of the Seleção Brasileira – the Brazilian national team – named his first squad since his reappointment last week as he prepares for his first games back in charge. Brazil take on fellow South Americans Colombia, on September 5th, at the Sun Life Stadium in Miami, Florida.
Since Brazil’s humiliation on home soil at the World Cup, when they were blown away 7-1 by Germany in the semi-finals, a complete overhaul of the team is expected. While predecessor Luiz Felipe Scolari used a base of favorites, Dunga is more likely to experiment in the coming matches prior to the 2015 Copa América, to be held in June in Chile.
Following Scolari’s resignation, other members of Brazil’s World Cup squad have left the national fold. Goalkeeper Júlio César and striker Fred have retired from international football, paving the way for younger players to try to make the famous yellow shirt their own.
Jefferson, of Botafogo, has been named in the squad alongside Rafael Cabral of Napoli. Cabral is starting his first season as first-choice in Série A, and the 31-year-old Jefferson is likely to start against Colombia.
In addition, several senior members of Felipão’s playing staff, following poor performances at the World Cup, would appear to be at the end of their international careers. Famed for his no-frills attitude, only ten of Scolari’s World Cup squad have made the cut for the two games against Colombia and Ecuador at the beginning of next month.
Daniel Alves came under particular scrutiny from both the Brazilian media and fans during the tournament, and has been omitted. Maicon eventually replaced the Barcelona full-back, while Danilo, of Portuguese club FC Porto, joins Maicon in Dunga’s Seleção squad.
In addition, David Luiz was held largely culpable for Brazil’s capitulation at the hands of the Germans. Despite a US$90 million transfer to French champions Paris Saint-Germain, his place in the starting line-up is under pressure from young teammate Marquinhos, and Corinthians zagueiro Gil, who has made an excellent start to the Campeonato Brasileiro campaign.
Other new names include Gil’s Corinthians teammate Elias, who won the Copa do Brasil last year with Flamengo, and Cruzeiro playmaker Everton Ribeiro, winner of last year’s Brasileirão Player of the Year Award. Dunga has also wrung the changes in attack, with Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho being handed a long overdue call-up.
In addition, the Brasileirão’s leading scorer, Cruzeiro’s Ricardo Goulart, and Diego Tardelli of Atlético-Mg are also in. The line-up on September 5th promises to be very different from the World Cup outlook as the coach looks set to make a sea of changes.
Dunga, though, has time on his hands. While success in the Copa América would be an added bonus, his most pressing immediate target is the 2016 Olympic Games, for two reasons. Brazil will once again be hosts, just as in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and, perhaps more importantly, Brazil have never won the gold medal in football at an Olympic tournament.
Following the Olympics comes the 2018 FIFA World Cup, in Russia. Without doubt, this is the biggest task of all for Brazil, with Germany and Italy now tied on four world titles apiece, one behind Brazil’s record of five.
Brazil squad in full:
Goalkeepers: Jefferson (Botafogo), Rafael Cabral (Napoli)
Defenders: David Luiz (PSG), Marquinhos (PSG), Gil (Corinthians), Miranda (Atletico Madrid), Maicon (AS Roma), Filipe Luis (Chelsea), Alex Sandro (FC Porto), Danilo (FC Porto)
Midfielders: Luiz Gustavo (Wolfsburg), Elias (Corinthians), Fernandinho (Manchester City), Ramires (Chelsea), Everton Ribeiro (Cruzeiro), Oscar (Chelsea)
Forwards: Hulk (Zenit), Ricardo Goulart (Cruzeiro), Willian (Chelsea), Neymar (Barcelona), Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool), Diego Tardelli (Atlético-MG)