By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The FIFA World Cup is only a couple of weeks away now as five-time world champions Brazil prepare to host the event for the second time in their glorious history. As usual, the Seleção are among the favorites to lift the trophy on July 13th at the Maracanã, and at the helm is the man who delivered the country’s last World Cup title, back in 2002, Luiz Felipe Scolari, more affectionately known as “Felipão.”
Although Brazilian football (soccer) is better known for their offensive playmaking, a strong defense will be needed to take the team all the way. The Seleção starting defensive line-up is as follows.
Right-Back: Daniel Alves
Age: 31, Birthplace: Juazeiro, BA, Club: Barcelona
Barcelona’s Daniel Alves has made Brazil’s right-back berth his own over the last four years. He was substitute to Maicon at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, but his form with the Catalan club has taken away any doubt about who should be starting for the national side. Happiest when surging forward, the 31-year-old has won it all at club level. A World Cup winners’ medal would round off his collection nicely.
Left-Back: Marcelo Vieira da Silva Júnior (“Marcelo”)
Age: 26, Birthplace: Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Club: Real Madrid
Over on the left flank will be Marcelo, who won the UEFA Champions League with Real Madrid this past weekend. At 26 years of age, he is the youngest starter in Scolari’s defense, and the player who has fought the hardest to prove his international credentials.
Like Alves, he is an enormous asset going forward, as he proved with a goal in the Champions League final against Atlético Madrid. Yet his loss of temper is notorious, and selecting him is a risk that it would seem Scolari is willing to take.
Center Back: Thiago Silva
Age: 29, Birthplace: Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Club: Paris Saint-Germain
In the center of defense, Brazil boast arguably the greatest zagueiro in the world at present. Leader and captain Thiago Silva is the bedrock around which the Seleção’s defensive unit functions, and has taken over admirably from former captain Lúcio.
Having excelled at AC Milan, he has since led Paris Saint-Germain to successive league titles, after joining the French club two years ago. He also led Brazil to their Confederations Cup triumph last year and is now charged with leading them to the biggest crown of all.
Center Back: David Luiz
Age: 27, Birthplace: Diadema, SP, Club: Chelsea
Silva is partnered in the center by the always entertaining, and at times erratic, David Luiz. Lapses in concentration have been well documented, but under Thiago Silva’s stewardship he has been a consistent performer at international level. Having won the Champions League and the Europa League with Chelsea, he is on the verge of a US$60 million deal to Paris Saint-Germain that would make him the most expensive defender in the history of the game.
At the Confederations Cup the side conceded just three goals in five games with Silva and Luiz in central defense; the same tightly organized structure would stand Scolari and Brazil with an excellent chance of winning a sixth World Cup.
Goalkeeper: Júlio César
Age: 34, Birthplace: Duque de Caxias, RJ, Club: Toronto FC
Scolari’s first-choice goalkeeper is former Flamengo goalkeeper Júlio César. The 34-year-old was once considered one of the finest goalkeepers in the world, winning the UEFA Champions League with Italian giants Internazionale in 2010. After almost a year of sitting on the bench with London club Queens Park Rangers, the veteran goalie is now between the sticks at Canadian club Toronto, who play their football in Major League Soccer in the United States.
César was ever-present during Brazil’s successful run to the Confederations Cup title and crucially saved a penalty from Uruguay’s Diego Forlán in the semi-final.
The reserve players amongst the defensive sector are numerous and include: goalkeepers Jefferson and Victor, of Botafogo and Atlético-MG respectively; right-back Maicon, of Italian outfit AS Roma; left-back Maxwell, who plays with Thiago Silva at French champions Paris Saint-Germain; and central defenders Dante and Henrique, of Bayern Munich and Napoli respectively.