By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Coach Dunga, head of the Seleção Brasileira – the Brazilian national team – has made two late changes to his squad for the upcoming friendlies against Colombia and Ecuador. Santos forward Robinho, and Real Madrid left-back Marcelo, have been called up to replace the injured pair of Hulk and Alex Sandro.
For Robinho, at thirty-years of age, this quite possibly represents one final chance to prove his worth in national colors. He was omitted from Luiz Felipe Scolari’s 2014 FIFA World Cup squad, but had been a key part of Dunga’s 2010 team in South Africa.
Hulk picked up a thigh complaint whilst playing for league leaders Zenit St. Petersburg against Lokomotiv Moscow in the Russian championship. “I felt it and I had to leave [the pitch]”, he said.
On Sunday night, Robinho boarded a plane for the United States to join up with the squad. Brazil take on Colombia on Friday in Miami, before facing Ecuador in New Jersey on Tuesday. The player has vowed to “represent the country well” following the heartbreak of the recent World Cup.
“I am very happy with the call-up,” he added, “Zinho [the Santos director of football] told me in the concentração. It has given me enormous happiness.” Robinho will now miss his club’s next two games in the Campeonato Brasileiro. Santos are due to host bottom club Vitória before traveling to the North-East to take on Sport Recife.
Marcelo, meanwhile, had been a part of Felipão’s failed mission, but received stern criticism from the Brazilian press for his performances during the tournament. His display against Germany, in particular, when he abandoned defensive duties seemingly at will as Brazil were thrashed 7-1 in their most humiliating result of all time, has stuck long in the memory of the country’s sporting media.
Alex Sandro, considered one of the brightest young full-backs Brazil have available, strained his left thigh in his club FC Porto’s Champions League victory over French outfit Lille. He was not able to recover in time to travel to the U.S., and Dunga was left with no choice but to call up Marcelo, the first Brazilian to score an own goal at a World Cup tournament.
Marcelo will do battle with recent Chelsea acquisition Filipe Luis for the left-back berth over the next two games. The squad arrived in Miami on Monday morning and should train at the Sun Life Stadium, stage for Friday’s encounter with World Cup quarter-final opponents Colombia, over the coming days.
Meanwhile, Botafogo goalkeeper Jefferson said there was no explanation for what went wrong against Germany in the semi-final. The 31-year-old was substitute to Júlio César at the FIFA tournament, and has also been called up by Dunga for the next two matches.
Speaking on sports program “Readação SporTV, Jefferson said: “It was sad. Not only for me, but for everyone who was on the bench. “We couldn’t react. We were looking at each other and we just couldn’t believe such a catastrophe was happening.”
Jefferson is expected to start in goal against Colombia in Dunga’s first game back in charge of the Seleção. The second stopper, Rafael Cabral, is yet to play a full season at Italian club Napoli, having spent last term as understudy to Spaniard José Reina.