Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Selecao: Scolari's Class of 2014

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From the footballing mecca of the world which graced us with the likes of Pele, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, and Zico comes the newest generation of talent from Brazil tasked to perform in the biggest international football stage that is The FIFA World Cup. The task of banishing the ghosts of 1950 coincide with the weight of expectation placed heavily upon the shoulders of the relatively young Selecao squad. It’s all on the hosts to perform, and nothing less than winning the trophy at home will be deemed satisfactory by Brazilians everywhere.

Managing the team will be Luiz Felipe Scolari, more commonly known as “Big Phil.” He led Brazil to the 2002 World Cup title in Japan-Korea, and now, after a return to club management, will look to repeat his impressive performance on his home soil. The hosts are in Group A, which means they play Croatia, Mexico and Cameroon (in that order). Odds and squad strength tell us that Brazil should easily progress. 

The squad this year possesses several new and perhaps unfamiliar names to some; longtime and well-known Brazilian footballers such as Ronaldinho, Kaka, and Robinho who were part of previous Selecao sides have now seemed to fade out into their yesteryears and have been left out by Scolari. This iteration of the Selecao is an arguably inexperienced, yet undoubtedly talented new mix of youth and veterans set to don the iconic Green and Yellow. 

Most expect Scolari to employ a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 formation for his burgeoning squad– tried and tested during the Confederations Cup victory for Brazil to maximize the capabilities of his players and build on its success. 

Predicted Starting XI: 
GK: Julio Cesar 
DEF: Marcelo, David Luiz, Thiago Silva, Dani Alves 
MID: Luis Gustavo, Paulinho, Oscar 
FW: Neymar, Fred, Hulk 




Defense:

The Selecao defense shall be anchored by Thiago Silva, whom many consider to be one of the– if not the– best center back today in world football. The 29-year-old shall be paired with the most expensive center back signing in history, the enigmatic David Luiz who was signed by Ligue 1 Champions PSG for an amount which could rise to up to £50m. Meanwhile, the seasoned Julio Cesar shall most probably start in goal.

Expect Silva to assert his leadership in commanding and organizing the back four whilst giving Luiz the freedom to be adventurous, go forward, and jump start the offense by using his range of passing to spray long balls forward– just as how he did so during the build-up which resulted in Brazil’s first goal against Spain in the Confederations Cup Final.

Dani Alves will bomb forward from right back and will send in crosses much like what he does at Barça, serving as a threat from long-range. Marcelo may hold link-up play and play support to Neymar to open space for him to operate on the left side of the pitch.

Overall, Brazil has a solid back four both going forward and defending, though Luiz may be considered a possible “liability” due to his tendency to be caught out of position during his offensive ventures. He has seemed more positionally astute and less erratic when playing under Scolari; how this will all play out still remains to be seen.

Brazil conceded only 3 goals in Confederations Cup, fewest among all team in the competition. Scolari will be hoping his Selecao can build on this solid defensive foundation as they gun for the World Cup title.

Midfield:

For the midfield, A three-man set-up will most likely be favored by Big Phil. Luis Gustavo, Paulinho and Ramires are three physical players who are not afraid to tackle and assure possession of the ball.

Oscar is Brazil’s most creative and dynamic midfielder, but is considerably lightweight and as such must play deeper if Scolari plays a 4-3-3. The Chelsea attacking midfielder is capable defensively, though, and has shown the ability to track back and pressure– especially seen when he played a “suffuco” role against Spain, nullifying their defensive midfielder Sergio Busquets and thus cutting off the Spanish offensive passing circulation early. Midfield interplay is critical and a strength of Brazil, especially if Oscar, Ramires, and Willian are playing due to their understanding of each other from their time at Chelsea.

Attack:

Former Porto star Hulk will most probably start on the right wing. The left-footed Zenit St. Petersburg forward has the ability cut in and fire a power shot from distance, possessing both the pace and power to beat his defender.

Neymar will no doubt be the focal point Brazil’s attack. The nation, Selecao, and rest of the world will look to him initiate and create attacks. He will be both Brazil’s playmaker and goal scorer– expected to be the team’s most dynamic and the focal player going forward. Scolari will deploy him on the left side to allow him to cut in and create goal-scoring chances with his blistering pace and uncanny dribbling ability, which he showed both in Santos and Barcelona. If need be, he can also play down the middle.

It is pivotal to have a capable center forward to complete attack. Fred will slot into this role as he looks to score and make space for Neymar. The striker made major contributions in the Confederations Cup. Look for him to exchange passes with Neymar and for him to hold up the ball for runners so as to make most of the pacey and electric Brazilian attack.

Bench:

Defense:

Brazil holds depth at the defensive position especially with ball-playing Bayern Munich center back Dante and PSG’s seasoned left-back Maxwell in the squad. Veteran right-back Maicon and Napoli’s Henrique are two more capable defenders at Scolari’s disposal.

Surprisingly left on the standby squad were La Liga winning and UCL runner-up Atletico Madrid center back Miranda and left-back Felipe Luis, who looked impressive all season under Diego Simeone. It is clear though that Scolari already had a side in mind and stands firm by his decisions.

Midfield:

Fernandinho is a bruising box-to-box midfielder who put in solid production for English Premier League champions Manchester City and has proven himself against top-tier competition. Hernanes of Inter Milan will look to take shots from distance and use wide range of passing. Look for Willian to provide pace and creativity when replacing Oscar or if he is slotted into an attacking position.

Attack:

Bernard has been tapped by many as the “one to watch” from Brazil. The diminutive winger-slash-midfielder stands at 5 feet 5 inches and carries bursts of energetic pace and skill on the ball in his arsenal. He used these, alongside Ronaldinho, to help Atletico Miniero win the Copa Libertadores in 2013, earning him a big-money move to Shakhtar Donetsk in the following transfer window.

Jo, who was also part of that 2013 Cup-winning squad and of ex-Manchester City fame, is the alternative to Fred at the striker position.

Will the Selecao falter under the pressure of its nation or will it rise to win its sixth World Cup on home soil and avenge what happened in 1950 in the Maracana? They have the talent and ability to win it all, but it still all remains to be seen. The world is watching; the spirit and hopes of a nation lie on green and yellow shoulders. Hosting the World Cup and winning it is both a dream and an expectation for Brazil– it’s now all down to Scolari’s Class of 2014 to have a hand in determining the fate of a cup and of a nation.

Brazil 2014 World Cup Squad:

Goalkeepers: Julio Cesar (Toronto FC, on loan from Queens Park Rangers), Jefferson (Botafogo), Victor (Atletico Mineiro).

Defenders: Marcelo (Real Madrid), Daniel Alves (Barcelona), Maicon (AS Roma), Maxwell, Thiago Silva (Paris Saint-Germain), David Luiz (Chelsea), Dante (Bayern Munich), Henrique (Napoli). 

Midfielders: Paulinho (Tottenham Hotspur), Ramires, Willian, Oscar (Chelsea), Hernanes (Inter Milan), Luiz Gustavo (Wolfsburg), Fernandinho (Manchester City).

Forwards: Bernard (Shakhtar Donetsk), Neymar (FC Barcelona), Fred (Fluminense), Jo (Atletico Mineiro), Hulk (Zenit St. Petersburg).

Standby List: Diego Cavalieri (Fluminese) Miranda, Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid), Rafinha (Bayern Munich), Lucas Leiva (Liverpool), Lucas Moura (Paris Saint-Germain), Alan Kardec (Sao Paulo)

Article by Vince & Miguel
Artwork by Tim
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Vincent Soliven lives for sports. If he's not watching, writing, or talking about these beautiful games, especially basketball or football, he's probably not breathing either.
Tim Lopez is a Cancerian illustrator who likes music, art, Krav Maga, and trying out new things. Tim dreams of backpacking through wild foreign lands. His favorite color is the yellow of saffron in rad Indian food.

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