Carlos Dunga has named the Brazil squad he hopes will secure a record sixth World
The 23 names contain only one genuine shock but if a squad can be judged alone on the strength of the players left out, then this Brazil are pretty darn special. Kicking their heels this summer will be Milan duo Ronaldinho and Alexandre Pato. The two-time World Player of the Year finds himself on a reserve list despite a decent season in terms of goals and assists. Pato meanwhile has long been tipped as the natural heir to the legendary Ronaldo and is a long-time target of Chelsea, but does not even make the reserve list. Further omissions include heavyweight Flamengo striker Adriano, Tottenham-target Sandro, Football Manager favourite Hernanes and Santos wonder-kid Neymar. For the romantics, Ronaldo was never in the running for an emotional swansong.
While those missing out will provide hours of conjecture in the favelas, single-minded Dunga will be concerned only with the men under his charge. The squad contains three goalkeepers, eight defenders, eight midfielders and four forwards. A reserve list consisting of Diego Tardelli, Ganso, Carlos Eduardo, Marcelo, Alex, Sandro and Ronaldinho has been announced in the event of injury. Traditionally the position between the sticks has been seen as Brazil’s Achilles heel, but not anymore. In Inter’s Julio Cesar, Dunga can call upon one of the top-five goalkeepers in the world, and top-class cover in Spurs’ Heurelho Gomes and Roma’s Alexander Doni.
The one thing that jumps out about this Brazilian 23 is their experience, typified by the defensive make-up of the squad. Captain Lucio won the trophy back in 2002 and has been incredible for Inter this season, as anyone who saw his Champions League performances against Chelsea and Barcelona will testify. Alongside him Juan has been troubled by injury lately but Benfica’s Luisao or Thiago Silva are more than able deputies. At right-back, the Coach has the unenviable task of choosing one from Maicon and Dani Alves. On the other flank, perhaps Barcelona’s Maxwell would have been a better bet but Michel Bastos and Gilberto Silva get the nod.
The midfield is dominated by strength and power – to the exclusion of flair, with the exception of Kaka, some would say. Regulars Felipe Melo and former Arsenal anchor Gilberto Silva are there, despite a dire season at Juve for Melo. They are joined by a blast from the past in the shape of Manchester United flop but 2002 World Cup winner Kleberson and another Premier League misfit in Julio Baptista. Elano, Ramires and Josue make up the midfield numbers while golden boy Ricardo Kaka is guaranteed a starting place in the hallowed No 10 shirt. With brawn rather than brains being the order of the day for this squad, a lot will depend on Kaka overcoming a disappointing and injury-hit first season at Real Madrid. A motivated Ricky could be the difference between disappointment and glory.
As five-time winners of football’s greatest prize, Brazil have historically had some of the greatest front-men of all time. Pele, Romario and Ronaldo all won the Jules Rimet trophy and scored the goals to make it happen. This time round there is arguably not a striker of that class in the ranks, but in Luis Fabiano they have a man who has made the number nine shirt his own, courtesy of an impressive 25 goals in 36 outings. He will be joined in attack by Robinho, enjoying a new lease of life on loan at former club Santos following his Manchester City nightmare, and Nilmar, who served notice of his ability in running England ragged in Doha and netting the only goal. They are supplemented by the only real shock of the 23 in two-cap wonder Grafite. The forward enjoyed a fairytale 2009 as his goals won Wolfsburg the German title, but he has been a shadow of his former self this term and is not a patch on Pato.
This squad is rightly favourites to win a sixth title given their experience, talent and results since Germany 2006. Throw in the fact that the Selecao has won titles in the Americas, Europe and Asia and it would take a brave man to suggest they won’t conquer Africa too. If that has not convinced you, then just look at those omissions again. Scared?