World Cup Squad:
Goalkeepers: Jefferson, Julio Cesar, Victor
Defenders: Dani Alves, Thiago Silva, David Luiz, Marcelo, Dante, Maxwell, Maicon, Henrique
Midfielders: Fernandinho, Ramires, Hernanes, Oscar, Willian, Luiz Gustavo, Paulinho, Bernard
Forwards: Fred, Neymar, Hulk, Jo
Brazil have picked a very strong team on paper and it would be hard to argue that they are heavy favourites to lift the World Cup on their own soil. The obvious choice for goalkeeper is Julio Cesar, who although plays in the MLS for Toronto, is hugely experienced, playing for Inter Milan for a number of years before moving to QPR in England. He found himself as second choice this season but got a loan move to help boost his chances of being selected for this World Cup. Julio Cesar is 34 so this is probably his last World Cup apperance. The other two selected goal keepers are Jefferson and Victor, both playing in the Brazilian Serie A league and although they are very experienced themselves, both 31 years old, they will have to provide back up to Julio Cesar this time round.
In last years Confederations Cup, Scorlari’s favoured defenders were Dani Alves, Thiago Silva, David Luiz and Marcelo, between them, they stopped Spain from scoring in the 3-0 win in the Confederations Cup final in a very impressive performance. I would be surprised if those four were not in the defence for the majority of games in Brazil, they have all had solid seasons with their clubs and are all fit and ready for the first game against Croatia. Maicon has also been selected in the squad, he has 70 caps for the national team and is massively experienced and is more than adequate cover at right back. Pushing all the way for a starting place in the opening game is Dante, who has helped Bayern Munich successfully defend the Bundesliga title. I think to start with he will have to sit on the bench, if Brazil start leaking a few too many goals though things could be shaken up and he could get game time. Another member of the experienced defence is Maxwell, who is seen as cover for Marcelo at left back, he has played the majority of games for PSG this season and also plays alongside Thiago Silva at PSG to good effect so Scolari could look to them to replicate their club form into the international game as another option in defence. Finally the last defender in the team as a back up for the central defensive position is Henrique of Italian Serie A side Napoli, he has only made 4 apperances for the national team and has limited playing time for Napoli this season but is no doubt a good defender and Scolari has obviously seen enough in his performances to warrant him a place in the squad.
Moving onto the midfield and there are alot of strong canditates for a starting spot in the opening game. In the Confederations Cup final last year, Paulinho and Luis Gustavo started in midfield, along with a more attacking option in Oscar. This time though I think Fernandinho will sit alongside Luis Gustavo as the one of the two holding midfielders if Scolari uses his favoured 4-3-3 formation. The attacking midfielder sitting just behind the main striker will be Oscar no doubt, he has had a good season with Chelsea, he struggled at first but definitely found his way by the end of the season. Paulinho has been selected in the squad and he will provide cover for Fernandinho and Luis Gustavo in midfield. The reason I think Paulinho will be on the bench come the first game is just purely for the fact he seems to have struggled in his first season at Tottenham, although some performances have been good, I just think Fernandinho will be high in confidence on the back of Manchester City’s league win and had some very good performances in his first season in English football. Brazil have quality running through their midfield with Ramires and Hernanes providing some back up in the midfield areas. Willian and Bernard are more attacking minded so the defensive midfielder position would not be the most effective position to play them in, they could both provide cover for Oscar as the attacking midfielder or they could play as one of the other wide men with Neymar most definitely on one of the wings.
Brazil’s forwards are under pressure to fire their team to World Cup glory in the summer and Fred will be the main striker with Neymar and Hulk on either side of him. Fred got the Silver Shoe at the Confederations Cup last year for being joint top goal scorer with 5 goals to his name and although he has not had a great goalscoring season with his club, Fluminese, he will surely be the main striker for Brazil. With Neymar and Hulk on each side, Brazil’s forward line is very intimidating for opposition, Neymar has had a good first season at Barcelona, scoring 15 goals altogether which is not a bad return in a first season. He received the Golden Ball at the Confederations Cup last year and is Brazil’s best hope of winning this World Cup, if Neymar plays well then Brazil will play well, he is that sort of player that can produce a match winning goal and he will be pivotal to any success Brazil have at this tournament. On the other wing will probably be Hulk, who plays in Russia for Zenit St. Petersburg, he could however lose his place to Willian and I think there is a good chance of that happening if Hulk does not hit the ground running when he is selected. The back up striker for Fred is Jo, the former Manchester City striker plays in Brazil now for Atletico Mineiro and will be called upon if Fred is injured or late on in games as a substitute.
Prediction: Winners – Overall Brazil are my pick to win the World Cup, I think with playing on their own turf and with the amount of support behind them I think they will do it. They blew away everyone at the Confederations Cup last year, including Spain which is not very easy to do, Spain were at nearly full strength as well so it was a very impressive win. On the other hand, Brazil could buckle under the intense pressure to win the World Cup and manager Scolari will have to manage his team wisely and make sure they relax and play like Brazil do and not nervous and pressured.