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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.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Scolari Recalls Ronaldinho And Hernanes To Brazil Squad For England Friendly

Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari named an intriguing squad for Brazil's February 6 friendly against England at Wembley Stadium by including a handful of experienced Brazil international players alongside the new generation of youngsters ushered in by his predecessor Mano Menezes. Ronaldinho, Luis Fabiano and Julio Cesar represented the most experienced players called up for the friendly, but there was no room for Kaka despite his impressive performances in recent international friendlies against Iraq, Japan and Colombia. Lazio playmaker Hernanes also received a call-up in a selection that sets up an array of mouthwatering midfield possibilities featuring some combination of Ronaldinho, Hernanes, Oscar, Paulinho, Ramires and Arouca.

In defense, Scolari selected Bayern Munich defender Dante and Atletico Madrid's Filipe Luis alongside familiar suspects such as Dani Alves, Adriano and David Luiz. Thiago Silva was omitted from the squad due to injury, as was Real Madrid's Marcelo, who is still recovering match fitness after suffering a broken metatarsal. Up front, Big Phil stayed true to his interest in a central target striker in the form of either veteran Sao Paulo striker Luis Fabiano or Fluminense's Fred. Hulk retained his place in the squad despite struggling to adapt to Russian soccer at Zenit.

Key features of Scolari's squad selection are as follows:

The recall of Ronaldinho, who may well be given a starting place, the captaincy and the number 10 jersey, despite not having played a Brazil international match since February 2012, against Bosnia. Depending on how he performs, Ronaldinho stands to inherit the leadership role for the Brazilian national football team under Scolari. In the specific context of this friendly, let's not forget that Ronaldinho almost singlehandedly sunk England in Brazil's encounter with England in World Cup 2002 with an elegant assist to Rivaldo and a stunning free kick that caught David Seaman off his line.

Scolari clearly intends to continue his predecessor's project of rebuilding the Brazilian midfield. Competition in the midfield will be fierce, however, and one scenario could well be that Oscar finds himself starting on the bench assuming that Ronaldinho and Hernanes start from the opening whistle. It's hard to imagine Scolari starting Oscar, Ronaldinho and Hernanes at the same time and more likely that we will see Paulinho and Ramires behind two attacking midfielders.

The selection of Fabiano and Fred means that Brazil will play either in a 4-3-3- with Neymar and Hulk flanking the centerforward of choice, or more likely, a 4-4-2 with Hulk starting the match on the bench.

Expect the left back, Leandro Castan, to play more of a defensive, anchored role while Dani Alves is given the freedom to join the attack on the right flank.

More so than anything, however, Scolari's squad means that Brazil are out to win, in full force, in contrast to Menezes's investment in rebuilding and renovating the squad gradually over a period of several months, and incurring losses against world class opponents in the process. Fabiano, Fred and Hernanes will be hungry to impose their stamp on the game and make their mark for the March 21 Italy friendly in preparation for the 2013 Confederations Cup. Ronaldinho constitutes the wild card, however, both with respect to his ability to perform and provide leadership to the rest of the team. The 32 year old Ronaldinho has said that he would like to play in the 2014 World Cup and what better an opportunity than to strut his stuff than against the team that he dismantled roughly ten years ago.

Brazil Squad For England Friendly

Goalkeepers: Julio Cesar (QPR), Diego Alves (Valencia)
Defenders: Dani Alves (Barcelona), Adriano (Barcelona), Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid), Dante (Bayern), David Luiz (Chelsea), Leandro Castan (AS Roma), Miranda (Atletico Madrid)
Midfielders: Arouca (Santos), Paulinho (Corinthians), Hernanes (Lazio), Ronaldinho (Atletico Mineiro), Oscar (Chelsea), Ramires (Chelsea)
Forwards:  Fred (Fluminense), Luis Fabiano (Sao Paulo), Neymar (Santos), Lucas Moura (PSG), Hulk (Zenit St Petersburg)

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