All eyes on Scolari

2014-05-04 15:00

After months of endless discussions about the problems around the preparation for the 2014 Fifa World Cup, Brazilians are about to once again focus on The Beautiful Game.

There have been concerns over the slow pace of stadium construction, ever-increasing costs, doubts about transport and communication infrastructure, and street protests.

Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari will on Wednesday unveil the names of the 23 players who will be tasked to win Brazil’s sixth World Cup and few surprises are expected.

In a recent interview with Globo TV, Scolari said he had already decided on 21 names, even mentioning goalkeeper Júlio César (Toronto FC), and defenders Thiago Silva (Paris Saint-Germain) and David Luiz (Chelsea).

Other certainties are Chelsea players Oscar and Willian, Paulinho of Tottenham as well as strikers Fred (Fluminense) and Neymar (Barcelona). Only serious injury will see these players miss out.

There is also little doubt about players such as Barça right-back Dani Alves and Marcelo Vieira, the Real Madrid left-back, even though Scolari didn’t mention them.

Midfielders will probably include Luiz Gustavo (Wolfsburg), Fernandinho (Manchester City) and Bernard (Shakhtar Donetsk).

Atlético Mineiro’s Jô will substitute for Fred.

Beyond that, things become less solid. It is a good bet Scolari has not made up his mind on the third goalkeeper (the second being Botafogo’s Jefferson): Victor (Atlético Mineiro) and Diego Cavalieri (Fluminense) are the favourites.

The other doubt in Scolari’s mind probably relates to one of the substitute defenders. Dante (Bayern Munich) will definitely be on the bench, which leaves one spot open.

Until recently, Scolari leant towards Dedé (Cruzeiro), but a spectacular season with Atlético Madrid may give Miranda a good chance of making the cut.

Those who don’t follow the day-to-day of Brazilian soccer will be astonished that some of the biggest stars of recent years are not mentioned.

The coach has favoured a new group of trusted and rising stars, the so-called Scolari family. Ageing big names like Kaká, Ronaldinho and Luís Fabiano will almost certainly miss what would be their last World Cup. The only veteran in with a chance is Robinho (AC Milan).

On paper, Scolari’s list seems solid, and Brazil are to remain strong favourites to win on home soil.

But many questions remain: will Neymar improve on his recent disappointing performances for Barcelona? Will Fred finally turn the page on his many injuries? And has Júlio César recovered from the 2010 fiasco, when he conceded two soft Dutch goals that saw the Seleção knocked out in the quarterfinals?

Brazilians must be forgiven for being a little sceptical.

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