by Robbie Blakeley
So, it’s three games and no wins as Luiz Felipe Scolari’s second reign as Brazil coach gets off to a less than inspiring start. In his opening trio of outings in Europe Felipão has seen his side defeated by England and held to draws by Italy and Russia, all the while playing some fairly drab football.
The former Chelsea and Portugal coach still has much to ponder if he is to win Brazil’s third successive Confederations Cup crown. And based on yesterday’s performance, fans shouldn’t get too excited just yet.
The performance of the Seleção highlights the folly of the CBF – the Brazilian Football Confederation – in removing Mano Menezes with less than two years to go before the World Cup. Just as he began to give his players an identity he was ejected in favour of a firm fan favourite but without a major trophy since that 2002 triumph.
Felipão rather foolishly told the press he has already decided upon his tactical formation, now he just needs to find the correct pieces of the puzzle. But surely it should be the other way round?
Find your best XI and afterwards the formation to fit them. Instead, Scolari is trying to hammer a round nail into a square hole. In international football, stubborn rigidity is rarely rewarded.
Big Phil has been given some handy tools with which to build and has swiftly established a base for his team. So in the eyes of the man himself, with tactics sorted without a team, how is his side shaping up?
He will go with a 4-2-3-1 formation and his defence looks decided upon despite some chaotic displays and the failure to keep a clean sheet this year.
QPR stopper Júlio César should be behind a back four of Dani Alves, PSG’s Thiago Silva, David Luiz and the unpredictable Marcelo, whose performance on Monday showed he is the best option by a mile Brazil have at left-back.
After three goals in as many games for the national side Fluminense striker Fred will lead the line. The main doubt in relation to the front four is which experienced head Scolari will go with.
Big Phil as good as conceded one place in the side will go to Kaká or Ronaldinho Gaúcho. The trouble being neither has put in a match-winning, or even spirited, display for the yellow shirt this year.
Ronaldinho was dreadful against England and Kaká was apathetic against the Russians. With Brazil’s next two matches against Bolivia and Chile in April, the ball looks to be back in the Atlético-MG player’s court. For these two friendlies, only players playing in Brazil will be eligible for selection.
The midfield pairing of Fernando and Hernanes in front of the back four is also less than settled. Hernanes performed competently yesterday but faces stiff competition from Corinthians’ Paulinho and Chelsea’s Ramires for a place in the starting line-up.
And the team’s star turn, Neymar, remains an enigma. Scintillating for Santos, baffling for Brazil, his status as untouchable in national colours remains despite a continued lack of brilliance against tougher, more physical, opposition.
For now, there is nothing to do but wait until the next round of auditions. Next month home based players will get the chance to prove themselves worthy of a place in Scolari’s Confederations squad.
Corinthians keeper Cássio, whose excellent performance in the World Clup Cup has not gone unnoticed, Vasco centre-half Dedé, Fluminense playmaker Wellington Nem and Brazil’s forgotten man, Alexandre Pato, will all be given centre-stage.
But Big Phil needs to pick his squad before his formation. Once a cast has been established only then can the manager begin to think of formations and schemes – football has evolved since he last held the reins in Portugal.