By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – After close to three years of preparation, negative headlines and furore the FIFA Confederations Cup, a prelude to next year’s World Cup, will get underway this Saturday, June 15th. At the Estádio Mané Garrincha in the country’s capital, Brasília, Brazil get the ball rolling against Asian champions Japan.
Brazil will be boosted by their emphatic victory over the French last Sunday after a series of disappointments against high-ranked opposition. Brazil have not played competitive football since their elimination from the 2011 Copa America at the hands of Paraguay, and coach Luiz Felipe Scolari has the task of delivering a third successive Confederations Cup title.
As Scolari, who won Brazil’s fifth and up until now last World Cup in 2002, tweaks his teem ahead of next year’s main event, the coach has chosen a squad heavily reliant on youth for the upcoming tournament. Of the four teams in their group (alongside Japan, Mexico and Italy) the average age of the Brazilian squad is the youngest at 26 years and six months.
In addition, the side has the least experience at FIFA tournaments, boasting just four players with previous World Cup experience – Júlio César, Dani Alves, Thiago Silva and Fred. However, when asked about his squad, Scolari was not overly worried. “Youth has its advantages. They [the players] have a lot of desire. Their willingness is enormous, they do everything I ask of them,” he said.
Scolari has now been back in the post six months and appears to be settling on a preferred side. Eyebrows were raised when former coach Mano Menezes was so brutally removed from the position supposedly entrusted to him for four years, but he ultimately paid the price for failing to decide on a defined XI.
Barring injury the Brazilian line-up to face Japan should run as follows: Júlio César; Dani Alves, Thiago Silva, David Luiz, Marcelo; Luiz Gustavo, Paulinho; Hulk, Oscar, Neymar; Fred.
The majority of the experience comes in the back line. César was the Seleção goalkeeper at the previous World Cup. Dani Alves and Thiago Silva were also squad members for Dunga’s failed mission in South Africa in 2010.
Yet there is a cause for concern in the attacking sector where the average age falls to 24 years and six months. Twenty-nine-year-old striker Fred will be the focal point, and his form under Scolari has been excellent in 2013. He failed to get on the scoresheet against France but created the opener for Oscar.
Speaking on the skepticism of some fans about his choices Scolari continued: “It’s normal that there is a degree of mistrust. We are only going to put a stop to this with victories.”
Looking at their group stage opponents it is understandable why some remain wary. Italy, who won the World Cup in 2006, have ten players in their squad who featured at the last World Cup, more than double that of Brazil.
The average age of the Italians is 28 years and three months. Italy can also count on five players with over 50 international caps; Buffon, Chiellini, De Rossi, Gilardino and Pirlo and coach Cesare Prandelli has been in the job over three years.
Mexico’s squad has an average age of 27 years and six months and brings to Brazil nine players from the 2010 tournament. Coach José Manuel de La Torre has been in charge for two and a half years, whereas Scolari has only been back in his role for six months.
Saturday’s opponents Japan have eight players with World Cup experience and an average age of 27. They are the side most comparable to the Seleção in terms of experience, but in any event, Brazilian fans are certainly looking for a decisive victory.