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This blog reflects on soccer qua football all over the world. The blog has a specific investment in attractive, attacking football and, as such, focuses on Brazil, the most emphatic historical exponent of the beautiful game.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Mano Recalls Ronaldinho and The Hulk to Brazil Squad For Ghana Friendly

Brazil coach Mano Menezes recalled Ronaldinho and the Hulk to his roster for Brazil’s September 5 friendly against Ghana in London. The call-up of Ronaldinho and the Hulk to the Brazilian national football team represented the most candid admission so far, by Menezes, of the inefficacy of his squad selections and starting line-ups, particularly in the areas of Brazil’s attacking midfield and striker combinations. Speaking of Ronaldinho, Mano mentioned that "he's been playing frequently and showing his physical improvement because we never doubted his technical (abilities).” Ronaldinho has scored nine goals in 15 games in Brazil and could very well function as the attacking midfield playmaker that Brazil desperately needs. Mano had originally envisioned Paulo Henrique Ganso as the playmaker “that would organize the team the way I want,” but the 21 year old Santos star has yet to shine in the attacking midfielder role previously occupied by the likes of Kaka, Ronaldinho, Rivaldo and Socrates. Mano’s inclusion of The Hulk and Leandro Damiao alongside the decision to drop Fred speaks volumes regarding his search for a center forward that can pose a dominant poaching threat and create space for a combination of Neymar, Robinho and Pato to operate on the wings.

For Porto, the Hulk plays as right winger with Rademel Falcao in the center and Cristian Rodriguez on the wide left. In some of Porto’s most devastating performances, the Hulk pulls right, stretching the defense, allowing space for an attacking midfielder like Fredy Gurain to push forward. In other matches, Falcao drops deep, allowing the Hulk and Rodriguez to push forward. For Brazil, however, Mano may need to play The Hulk differently, in more of a direct center forward role given the inefficacy of Pato and Fred in that position. One option would be to replicate AC Milan’s formation with Hulk taking the place of Ibrahimovic, flanked by Robinho and Pato.

Regardless, Mano desperately needs to leverage Ronaldinho’s experience and technical ability, and The Hulk’s competitive hunger to start scoring goals and set the team back to its winning ways. After almost two decades of a golden age of Brazilian football, the performance of the team has declined to the point where it resembles a ghost of the glorious victories enabled by players such as Romario, Bebeto, Dunga, Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, Roberto Carlos and Cafu. Brazil has now suffered two consecutive defeats to Paraguay and Germany. Out of 14 matches, Mano can claim an unenviable record of seven wins, four losses and three draws.

Brazil play Ghana at Craven Cottage Stadium in London on September 5. The last time Brazil played Ghana was in the second round of the 2006 World Cup, when Brazil won by a score of 3-0 in which Ronaldo set a World Cup record by scoring his 15th World Cup goal.

Brazil Squad

Goalkeepers: Julio Cesar (Inter Milan), Jefferson (Botafogo), Fabio (Cruzeiro)

Defenders: Lucio (Inter Milan), Thiago Silva (AC Milan), Dedé (Vasco da Gama), David Luiz (Chelsea), Dani Alves (Barcelona), Danilo (Santos), Marcelo (Real Madrid)

Midfielders: Adriano (Barcelona), Lucas Leiva (Liverpool), Luiz Gustavo (Bayern Munich), Ralf (Corinthians), Elias (Atletico Madrid), Fernandinho (Shakhtar Donetsk), Paulo Henrique Ganso (Santos), Lucas (Sao Paulo)

Strikers: Ronaldinho (Flamengo), Robinho (AC Milan), Alexandre Pato (AC Milan), Neymar (Santos), Hulk (FC Porto), Leandro Damiao (Internacional)

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