by Robbie Blakeley

As 2012 draws to a close with one international friendly remaining before choruses of Auld Lang Syne ring out (or whatever the Brazilian equivalent is – I’m still not quite sure), the Seleção Brasileira has finally begun to take shape prior to next year’s Confederations Cup.

With seven and a half months until kick-off, on June 15th 2013, Brazilian coach Mano Menezes has time to tinker on a few more occasions prior to what will be Brazil’s first competitive fixture since elimination from the Copa America in July 2011 at the hands of Paraguay.

A convincing 4-0 win over Japan two weeks ago helped Menezes begin to build the foundations of his probable line-up in June. Were the Confederations Cup to begin next week, his probable starting XI would be: Diego Alves; Dani Alves, Thiago Silva, David Luiz, Marcelo; Paulinho, Ramires, Oscar, Kaká; Hulk, Neymar.

Of these eleven, only Real Madrid left-back Marcelo is not in the squad for Brazil’s friendly against Colombia in New Jersey, USA, on November 14th, coincidentally the 1,000th match in the Brazilian national team’s history. But the big story remains the return of Kaká.

Still only 30-years-old but seemingly forgotten by Jose Mourinho and Real Madrid, the attacking midfielder put in two excellent performances against Iraq and Japan, serving as the perfect foil for Chelsea playmaker Oscar. Coupled with the youngster’s pace and exuberance, Kaká’s experience and eagle eye for a precision pass is a promising partnership for Brazil, not only for June but for the World Cup the following year.

It only remains for Kaká to get out of Madrid as soon as possible and start playing regularly again, whether that be back at Milan, where he enjoyed the finest form of his career, or in his homeland, probably at São Paulo.

But Kaká’s international renaissance has meant something more fundamental for the team than just providing a mentor for Oscar; it has changed Menezes’ entire team shape.

In the last two matches Brazil have played without a target man, a fixed centre-forward, instead leaving the front four to float at will in a freestyle 4-2-4. It is a tactical system Italian coach Luciano Spalletti adopted to accommodate Francesco Totti at Roma and which is becoming increasingly popular in the modern game.

Menezes has already confirmed he will use the same formation against the Colombians, meaning Leandro Damião, who performed so well during the Olympic Games, will remain on the bench. Mano believes Kaká brings more variety to the team and the 2007 World Player of the Year began to repay the faith last month.

He has one more chance this year to prove his worth and then the Confederations Cup, the World Cup’s dress rehearsal, to cement his place once again in the Brazilian side. Kaká’s second coming could be just around the corner.

Robbie is the senior sports reporter for the Rio Times