The final FIFA World Rankings before the
Of course whether one puts much store by this monthly run down is another matter given that they rarely seem to reflect the true standing of international football. For example, can anyone truly argue that Portugal are the third best team on the planet, given their shaky record under Carlos Queiroz and shocking effort against Cape Verde in mid-week. Either way the Brazilians have held onto the position they took from Spain last month, when they ended Vicente Del Bosque’s side’s five-month reign at the top of the charts. And now it is a case of getting down to business with their Group D opener against DPR Korea a little under three weeks away.
Dunga has already named his squad of 23, as well as a standby list of seven players, and began the build up to his country’s 19th tournament with a training session in Brazil last Friday. Inter Milan’s Champions League winning trio of Julio Cesar, Douglas Maicon and national team skipper Lucio were obviously excused given last Saturday’s final against Bayern Munich. Their levels of confidence can only be imagined and their success is bound to add to the feel-good factor within Dunga’s close-knit line-up. Of greater relief is the fact that golden boy Kaka came through an examination with the team’s medical staff, having missed Real Madrid’s final league match of the season. The debut campaign in Madrid was marred by injury for Kaka, and no one is more aware than Dunga of the need to have his playmaker fully fit – given all that is good about this Brazil comes through their number 10. Star striker Luis Fabiano has also endured an injury-hit season, but he too is said to be on course to make kick-off against DPR Korea.
Behind the scenes, the CBF confirmed that the national team will play two warm-up games in Africa prior to their June 15 start. Troubled Zimbabwe will have the opportunity to forget their dire political plight, for 90 minutes at least, when the Brazilians visit their Harare capital on June 2. Remarkably, it will be the first time the Warriors have faced non-African opposition at home since independence in 1980. A second match against minnows Tanzania will follow five days later in Dar es Salaam. Dunga is not given time to experiment much so a strong line-up for both run-outs can be expected as fine tuning is made prior to the tournament, with the main aim of avoiding injuries paramount. Selecao followers will remember only too well captain Emerson injuring himself on the eve of the 2002 competition – although his team-mates coped well enough in his absence.
Brazil, arguably more than any other country, knows what it is like having to perform under intense pressure. In 1998, Dunga saw for himself what can happen when this is taken to the extreme as the greatest goal-scorer in World Cup history, Ronaldo, crumbled under the expectation. So with that in mind it was nice of the team’s kit manufacturer, Nike, to lighten the mood with their latest pre-tournament event or rather, advert. All their stable of stars are there including Wayne Rooney, Didier Drogba and Italian legend Fabio Cannavaro. But all the fun sequences and millions of dollars are rendered a little silly by the inclusion of one Ronaldinho in the action. Of course he doesn’t disappoint with his array of flicks and tricks but we can take it from his inclusion that the Nike executives don’t have a hotline to Dunga’s mobile. Because then they would have known, like other mere mortals, Ronnie will be watching the action from South Africa on a plasma screen at home. Having said that, the Milan marvel is on the standby list, and wouldn’t it be something if he were to make a dramatic late appearance in the final 23 and wipe the bitter memories of his experiences in Germany four years ago. It’s difficult to remember now, but going into that tournament, the then Barcelona star was spoken of in the same hushed, awed-tones as Lionel Messi is described now. Should fate grant him a second chance, a Ronaldinho winner in Jo’burg on July 11 really would make a fine commercial.