The announcement of Brazil's World Cup squad drew over 800 journalists to the Vivo Rio conference hall on Wednesday afternoon. There, for once, proceedings got underway on time, the sinister José Maria Marin keeping his introductory speech short before handing over to Brazil's "commander".
Felipão did not waste much time either. After briefly calling on Brazil to "get behind the squad despite their preference for footballer A, B or C", he named the 23 players who will attempt to win the World Cup on home soil this summer. 21 or 22 of which anyone could have guessed beforehand, as the Seleção coach readily admitted.
Júlio César becomes the first goalkeeper playing in Canada to earn a World Cup call-up for Brazil (think he might cling on to that honour for a while) and will be backed up by Jefferson of Botafogo and Grêmio stopper Victor. The latter usurps Diego Cavalieri, who was in the squad for the Confederations Cup last summer.
Right-backs Daniel Alves and Maicon were shoo-ins, but it may surprise some to see Maxwell selected as back-up to Marcelo on the left. Filipe Luís, so impressive for Atlético Madrid this season, has every right to feel disappointed.
The same can be said of Miranda, who was also overlooked. With Thiago Silva, David Luiz and Dante the three certainties in this department, the identity of the final centre-back was one of the main mysteries ahead of the announcement. Scolari opted against Dedé, Réver and Miranda in favour of Napoli's Henrique, with whom he worked at Palmeiras. That choice can largely be attributed to the Felipão trust factor, but the 27-year-old can also fill in at full-back or in front of the backline if required.
The midfield contingent has a distinctly English feel, with Paulinho, Fernandinho, Ramires, Willian and Oscar all taking their places among the 23. Midfield anchor Luiz Gustavo is also in the squad, as is Hernanes. The latter was perhaps the only other slight surprise on the list, with his standing in the Brazil set-up seemingly having wavered in the last few months. In the end, though, Scolari clearly preferred the technical ability of the Internazionale man to Lucas Moura's raw speed or the experience of Kaká.
The attack is as expected, with Jô and Bernard providing cover for Fred, Neymar and Hulk. Some had suggested that Robinho would earn a stunning recall due to his popularity among the other players, but thankfully common sense won out on that front.
The squad shows seven changes since the Confederations Cup, with dead wood like Jean and Jádson among those to make way. While there are areas of relative weakness, you would be hard-pressed to argue that the Seleção isn't stronger than it was 12 months ago. Comparisons to the 2010 squad are also favourable: Dunga selected Júlio Baptista, Kléberson and Grafite, who all turned out to be passengers in South Africa.
Really, it should hardly be surprising that Scolari made no truly left-field selections. After all, his whole modus operandi is based upon continuity and team spirit. He has known for some time which players will step onto the field against Croatia on June 12. Now comes the hard part.
Jack Lang - @snap_kaka_pop
- Sports & Recreation
- Luiz Felipe Scolari
- Lucas Leiva