Brazil’s 2-2 draw against Chile on Wednesday was one of the most horrendous displays by the Selecao in recent memory. The fullbacks and defensive midfield were nonexistent, and overall, the team didn’t play as a team at all, but rather as a collection of atomized individuals. That said, Scolari did mention that friendlies such as these were opportunities to try out new players, and that may have been all that he got out of the exercise. Rever continued to perform well in defense, as did Henrique, who substituted for Dede in the second half. Meanwhile, Jean and Marcos Rocha delivered ineffective performances that suggest that the alternative to Dani Alves on the right flank is not based in Brazil, but at Manchester United in the form of Rafael. Regardless, Wednesday’s match witnessed three key promising developments with respect to individual players:
•Neymar trekked back deep into midfield, and sometimes even into his own half, to retrieve the ball and get some service. He even began looking for space on the right flank as opposed to the left, and explored more attacking options down the center as well. This is wonderful news for the Selecao, because this is exactly what Brazil's Ronaldo used to do, albeit with more pace, strength and confidence than Neymar. Neymar will need to continue to return deep into midfield since national teams know well that the secret to containing him simply involves double teaming him on the left flank.
•Ronaldinho is slowly but surely beginning to assert his vision and leadership on the team. This game witnessed some terrific visionary passes and flicks from the old master, who was also pivotally involved in the second goal. The Dinho-Neymar partnership continues to develop and will be one of the pillars of the national team unless Kaka stages a miraculous return to form in the next 6 months. Ronaldinho also played for 90 minutes and is clearly back to acceptable fitness levels for a 33 year old midfield playmaker.
•Pato is returning to full fitness, and we saw this in some exemplary play throughout the second half, and particularly in the second goal that he initiated. Corinthians have reportedly accused AC Milan of mismanaging his injuries, and this is good news for Brazil fans because Pato is the best pure Brazilian striker available today. If Pato can recover his fitness and form with the help of his club Corinthians, Brazil’s problems up front evaporate and the entire makeup of the team changes for the better.
With the exception of Rever, Neymar, Ronaldinho and Pato, the domestically based players do not look like viable candidates for the national team. Leandro Damiao continues to disappoint by virtue of his static play up front and even Paulinho had an indifferent game in which he failed to assert his authority on attacks emanating from deep positions. Part of the reason for Brazil’s poor performance, of course, stemmed from some remarkable play by an attack-oriented Chilean team that allowed Brazil virtually no time on the ball. That said, Paulinho, Ralf and Jadson failed to impress and will struggle for a starting place in the lineup given the likes of Hernanes and Ramires in deep midfield positions. Nevertheless, amidst all the disappointment, Brazil fans have at least three glimmers of hope about which to cheer as they look forward to their next friendly against England on June 2.