By Robbie Blakeley, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazilian coach Dunga announced his 23 man squad for the World Cup last week along with seven reserves to be called up in case of injury, and the list has been met with a mix of derision and disbelief by the majority of Brazilians.
The focus on team composition by the seleção coach is a new approach compared to the past preference to established names witnessed under 2006 World Cup coach Carlos Alberto Parreira, but the omission of several key players has left many scratching their heads.
His tough decision making sees Ronaldo, Ronaldinho Gaucho and Adriano all given the elbow in favor of those who bring less style but more substance to the Brazilian unit. The three players’ abilities to turn a game in a matter of minutes, and their sheer impact on the team sheet, were the main reasons many thought they would be included.
There remains one disappointing aspect of the selection for all Cariocas, however, and that is the shortage of Rio-based players to cheer in Dunga’s 23-man squad, with Kleberson of last season’s champions Flamengo the only player plying his trade in the city to make the cut.
Along with the surprise omission of Flamengo striker Adriano, Fluminense hit man Fred, who bagged 11 goals in 11 games at the back end of last season, was in line to make the squad but has also been rebuffed, no doubt partly due to his constant blighting by injury. Wagner Love, prolific so far this season for Flamengo, could also have expected an outside chance of a call up.
The final four strikers chosen are Sevilla’s Luis Fabiano, Villarreal’s Nilmar, Robinho of Santos and, somewhat surprisingly, powerful target man Grafite, of Wolfsburg.
This indicates how far the standard of not only football in Rio, but in the entire Campeonato Brasileiro has fallen, as teams constantly resort to selling their star players to Europe for big bucks.
The huge void left by Thiago Silva – now of Milan and one of the best centre backs Brazil has produced in recent times – has not been filled, but one wonders if he would have made the grade for his country had he stayed in Rio. It is a vicious cycle, and not one that looks like ending any time soon.
A quick look at the 23 names on Dunga’s World Cup list shows no shortage of players who have previously played in Rio. Goalkeeper Julio Cesar and centre back Juan both began their careers at Flamengo, and defender Thiago Silva came through the ranks at rivals Fluminense, as did reserve player Marcelo.
All four have moved on to bigger and better teams amongst Europe’s elite, and there is now a worrying lack of home-based talent at Dunga’s disposal. Sadly, many of the top players left in Rio and across Brazil are those that European clubs have decided are not up to the job, or are now winding down their careers in more familiar surroundings.
For now, it seems, Rio’s players will have to be content with a month off to watch their national team from afar, while those who departed for Europe begin the task of bringing the Jules Rimet trophy to Brazil.
The squad in full;
Goalkeepers: Julio Cesar (Inter Milan), Gomes (Tottenham Hotspur), Doni (Roma).
Defenders: Maicon (Inter Milan), Daniel Alves (Barcelona), Michael Bastos (Lyon), Gilberto (Cruzeiro), Juan (AS Roma), Lucio (Bayern Munich), Luisao (Benfica), Kleber (Internacional), Thiago Silva (Milan).
Midfielders: Felipe Melo (Juventus), Julio Baptista (AS Roma), Kaka (Real Madrid), Gilberto Silva (Panathinaikos), Ramires (Benfica), Elano (Galatasaray), Josué (Wolfsburg), Kleberson (Flamengo).
Forwards: Robinho (Santos), Luis Fabiano (Sevilla), Nilmar (Villareal), Grafite (Wolfsburg).