By Lisa Flueckiger, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Brazilian national football (soccer) team coach Dunga has called up 24 players for the next friendly games in September, the last tests ahead of the 2018 World Cup qualifying games. The squad contains several surprises, as Kaká, Hulk, Gabriel Paulista and Lucas were included, but Thiago Silva, Philippe Coutinho and Marcelo were left out.
Brazil is set to play two friendly games ahead of the first qualifying matches for the 2018 World Cup against Costa Rica and the United States on September 5th and 8th. For these games, coach Dunga has modified the makeup of the Seleção considerably from the last games at the Copa America.
Included in the list is midfielder Kaká, who will be the first player of the American Major Soccer League to ever play for the Brazilian national team. Kaká, currently playing at Orlando City SC, was FIFA World Player of the Year in 2007 and had been part of the Seleção in 2002, 2006 and 2010.
“Kaká is a reference and we called him up to bring experience, maturity. He will have an important job on and off the field,” Dunga explained his choice to the press.
Hulk, starting player at the 2014 World Cup under Felipão, but then dropped when Dunga took over, also makes a comeback to the national team now. Joining him will be Lucas from PSG, who had not been included in the team since 2013.
On the other hand, Thiago Silva, who had been the team’s captain at the World Cup, did not receive a nomination. The defender had made a comeback to the squad for the Copa America under Dunga, but now was left out after a shaky performance. Silva had caused a penalty kick for Paraguay in the Copa Ameria’s quarter finals, which had led the game to be decided in penalties and ultimately caused the elimination of Brazil from the cup.
“When you win, when you lose, everyone is responsible. We have nothing against any particular player. Time is short, we do not have many games, so whenever possible we open the range [of players]. We have players where we already know their performace,” Dunga said, adding wanting to give a chance to younger players.
Also left out from the squad is Philippe Coutinho. The midfielder from Liverpool had just recently made a name in the Seleção with solid performances in friendly games and at the Copa America and is probably the most surprising drop. Coutinho just scored the winning goal for his club Liverpool in the first game of the Premier League season and is already handled in social media as the “new Gerrard.”
Robinho, Diego Tardelli and Everton Ribeiro, who play in China and the United Arab Emirates respectively, lost their spots on the team together with Neto, Fabinho, Geferson, Casemiro and Fred. Gabriel Paulista usually on the bench for Arsenal will replace Thiago Silva and Alisson, Douglas Santos and Lucas Lima received their first call ups to the team.
Neymar who had been suspended for four games at the Copa America after attacking a player and insulting the referee, and who is also currently sick with mumps, was called up as “stand-by”. The Brazilian Federation hopes to overturn the two games ban the player still has to sit through and therefore included the player as an extra on the list.
The full list of players is the following:
Goalkeepers: Jefferson (Botafogo), Marcelo Grohe (Grêmio), Alisson (Internacional)
Defenders: Daniel Alves (Barcelona), Danilo (Real Madrid), Filipe Luís (Atlético Madrid), Douglas Santos (Atlético-MG)
Center backs: Miranda (Internazionale), David Luiz (PSG), Gabriel Paulista (Arsenal), Marquinhos (PSG)
Midfielders: Luiz Gustavo (Wolfsburg), Elias (Corinthians), Ramires (Chelsea), Fernandinho (Manchester City), Oscar (Chelsea), Douglas Costa (Bayern), Willian (Chelsea), Lucas Lima (Santos), Kaká (Orlando City)
Strikers: Neymar (Barcelona), Roberto Firmino (Liverpool), Lucas (PSG), Hulk (Zenit)