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FelipaoLuiz Felipe Scolari just announced his squad for next month’s Confederations Cup and it’s characterized by brave choices and an onus on youth.

Both Ronaldinho and Kaka have been left out, with the former omission particularly surprising given that he has been in sparkling form with his club Atletico Mineiro.

I think he’s right to leave him out because Ronaldinho has failed to show not just his club form in a yellow jersey, but also failed to show the same appetite for the game. However, if Brazil don’t do well, the screams for his return will become deafening.

The big surprise is the inclusion of Bernard, another Atletico Mineiro player. The tiny attacking midfielder has been one of the stars of Atletico’s Libertadores campaign.

I think his inclusion is as much about preparing him for the World Cup than it is about the Confederations competition. Felipao pointedly stated that he wants to give Bernard the experience of a big tournament before next year.

Lucas, now of Paris Saint-Germain, and Chelsea’s Oscar, are two other youngsters called up.

Among the other brave decisions are the exclusion of Ramires, which I think is a mistake, and the inclusion of Leandro Damiao. The internacional striker has lost some of his gloss recently but Felipao likes an old style No. 9 and Leandro Damiao fits that bill.

Brazil still look weak at the full back positions, especially if Marcelo and Daniel Alves get injured. I don’t rate either of them too highly and Marcelo is always liable to lose the rag.

Brazil play England in a friendly at the Maracana on June 2 and then face France in Porto Alegre a week later. The Confederations Cup kicks off on June 15.

The full squad, from the CBF home page:

Goleiros

Julio Cesar – Queens P. Rangers

Diego Cavlaieri – Fluminense

Jefferson – Botafogo

 

Zagueiros

Thiago Silva – Paris Saint Germain

Rever – Atlético Mineiro

David Luiz – Chelsea

Dante – Bayern de Munique

 

Laterais

Daniel Alves – Barcelona

Jean – Fluminense

Marcelo – Real Madrid

Filipe Luís – Atlético de Madrid

 

Meio-campo

Fernando – Grêmio

Hernanes – Lazio

Luiz Gustavo – Bayern de Munique

Paulinho – Corinthians

 

Meia atacantes/atacantes

Jadson – São Paulo

Oscar – Chelsea

Lucas – Paris Saint Germain

Hulk – Zenit

Bernard – Atlético Mineiro

Leandro Damião – Internacional

Fred – Fluminense

Neymar – Santos

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Pele croppedAs Brazil prepare to play Italy in Felipao’s second friendly match on Thursday night, here’s a reminder of why such games are taking place in Geneva, a home stadium for neither country.

Among the reasons: Time, money, and globalisation, as I say in my Reuters story from last year.

“It’s a trend,” says the headline and it’s not wrong.

It’s increasingly common for two international teams to face off in a third country.

The matchups and venues often sound completely random. Ireland have played Italy in Belgium and Oman in England. England have faced Brazil in Qatar and Italy in Switzerland. Argentina have taken on Nigeria in Bangladesh and Venezuela in India.

At least Brazil vs. Italy is more attractive than Brazil against Iraq in Sweden or Brazil against Japan in Poland.

Here’s the most iconic image of Pele, taken from the mural that surrounds Santos’s training ground. For no other reason than it’s cool.

NB – You couldn’t make it up. The CBF president got his dates wrong when he made the bombastic announcement on Tuesday night. The friendly, the CBF web site says, is April 6, not April 5 as Marin stated.

 

Now here’s something you won’t hear me say very often: “Well done to the CBF!”

Nice decision to take a Brazil team to Bolivia to play a benefit match for the family of the boy killed by Corinthians fans last month.

Kevin Beltran Espada died when Corinthians supporters fired a rocket into the home enclosure. The firework hit the 14-year old in the head, killing him instantly.

The CBF announced last night that Brazil will play Bolivia in a benefit match in Santa Cruz de la Sierra on April 5. As it is not an official FIFA date, only home-based players are likely to feature.

Of course, the match itself is largely irrelevant. What matters is the gesture. Let’s hope it’s a sign the CBF is becoming more open and more in tune with public opinion. Don’t hold your breath. But well done for now.

England take on Brazil this evening in Luiz Felipe Scolari’s return to both London and the Brazil manager’s position. (See my Reuters piece on what to expect from Felipao’s reign.)

The former Chelsea coach has just one task. Win the World Cup at home in July 2014.

What happens until then is largely irrelevant. Only an unthinkable turn of events would lead to his firing before the tournament begins and poor form up to that point will be ignored. Felipao took over in 2001 when his team were considered outsiders and barely a year later he’d led them to a record fifth World Cup title. The dinosaurs at the CBF trust him and so do Brazilians.

ronaldinhoFelipao has taken a big chance in recalling two particular players and both of them start tonight.

Ronaldinho Gaucho is being given another chance to prove he can cut it at the highest level. Dunga gave him a chance and decided he couldn’t. Mano Menezes gave him a chance and decided he couldn’t. I can’t fathom why Felipao reckons the Atletico Mineiro player is worthy of yet another chance.

He may have played well last year but the World Cup at home is a serious business and that requires concentration, consistency and serious dedication, qualities that Ronaldinho doesn’t seem to have. He may shine on occasion but Felipao needs more than that at this stage.

Luis Fabiano, meanwhile, has a goals per game record at international level that is up there with the best of them (if this site it to be believed). His problem, however, is his temperament. He was sent off several times last year and got Lord knows how many yellow cards.

The pressure on Brazil at home will be immense and the one thing that Felipao needs more than anything are players who can handle that pressure. I doubt Luis Fabiano can.

The Brazil team:

Júlio César; Daniel Alves, David Luiz, Dante and Adriano; Ramires, Paulinho, Ronaldinho Gaúcho and Oscar; Neymar and Luis Fabiano.

Kick off 7:30pm UK time, 5:30 pm Brazil time.

Brazil manager Luiz Felipe Scolari has just announced the squad for the Brazil vs. England match at Wembley on Feb. 6.

It is the first squad of his new reign and there were, as expected, a few surprises.

I think he’s right in recalling QPR goalie Julio Cesar and Lazio midfielder Hernanes who, I read the other day, has scored more goals than any other Brazilian playing in Europe this season.

But I can’t really see the point of recalling Ronaldinho. Talented he may be but he is lazy, and more of a problem off the field than a solution on it.

Fred deserves a chance given his scoring record but he may be getting on a bit for 2014.

Recalling Luis Fabiano, however, makes little sense. The hot headed Sao Paulo striker is just as likely to get sent off as score a hat trick and in the pressure cooker situation of a World Cup on home soil you can’t risk those kind of players.

I was also surprised to see Kaka missing, as he was superb in his last few games for Mano Menezes.

Here’s the Reuters story with more details. Link is here.

RIO DE JANEIRO, Jan 22 (Reuters) – Ronaldinho and goalkeeper Julio Cesar were both recalled by Brazil as new coach Luiz Felipe Scolari named his first squad on Tuesday.

Scolari, who led Brazil to their 2002 World Cup title and returned for a second stint in November, also left out Kaka and gave another chance to striker Luis Fabiano for the friendly against England next month.

Lazio midfielder Hernanes, another player overlooked by previous coach Mano Menezes, was also included for the match at Wembley on Feb 6.

Scolari has less than 18 months to build a team capable of winning a sixth world title for Brazil on home soil.

Goalkeepers: Julio Cesar (Queens Park Rangers), Diego Alves (Valencia)

Defenders: Daniel Alves (Barcelona), Adriano (Barcelona), David Luiz (Chelsea), Dante (Bayern Munich), Leandro Castan (AS Roma), Miranda (Atletico Madrid), Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid)

Midfielders: Ramires (Chelsea), Arouca (Santos), Paulinho (Corinthians), Hernanes (Lazio), Oscar (Chelsea), Ronaldinho (Atletico Mineiro)

Forwards: Hulk (Zenit St Petersburg), Neymar (Santos), Lucas (Paris St Germain), Fred (Fluminense), Luis Fabiano (Sao Paulo)

Felipao is the favourite, with Tite and Muricy strong contenders.

But the man many Brazilians would like to see as new manager has indicated he would drop everything and come to Brazil if given the chance to lead the five-times World Cup winner into the next tournament on home soil.

“The only team in the world that I would start managing tomorrow is Brazil,” Pep Guardiola told Lance newspaper today.

The message was relayed to Lance! from Guardiola via one of his friends, the paper said.

The friend didn’t waste any time in adopting a quintessentially Brazilian optimism (or cockiness). The former Barcelona manager “will lead Brazil to the World Cup if he is appointed manager, you can tell that to the president of the CBF” he said.

Guardiola left Barcelona at the end of last season and vowed to take a year out. He has so far been true to his word and has turned down all overtures from club sides.

But this message to Brazil seems clear.

The question is whether Brazil has the courage to plump for a foreign coach. He obviously has the track record.

But would the CBF be comfortable with such a thoughtful and professional coach? Look at the press conference to announce Mano Menezes’ sacking. Can anyone see the CBF at home with an urbane guy like Guardiola?

There’s also the fact that Brazil remains a staunchly nationalist, and in many ways, closed country. Hiring a foreigner to lead the team at their home World Cup would be unthinkable to many. Perhaps not to the average fan, who has a more worldy view of the game, but certainly to the octogenarians who run the CBF.

I still think they were wrong to sack Mano Menezes given that his team was starting to come good. They really need a sure fire name to take them into 2014.

Guardiola would be one.

Brazil fire Mano Menezes as manager and with it they become more like Chelsea and less likely to win the World Cup on home soil.

Menezes has struggled to beat the top teams and that is worrying. But recent form suggests he is getting closer to finding his ideal team and ideal formation.

The ridiculous thing about this is that Mano’s critics want a more expansive style of play, more attacking and more goals.

They know nothing about football. They have been crying out for the return of Luiz Felipe Scolari or for Tite to take over. Both of those managers are winners (as Menezes was) but they practice dour, defensive football.

They are not the answer.

Once again, impatience has won out in football.

Fluminense stars Fred and Diego Cavalieri got a just reward for their fine performances in helping Flu win the Brazilian league today by being called up to the Brazil team to face Argentina at La Bombonera on Nov. 21.

The match was hastily rescheduled after last month’s encounter was postponed because of a floodlight failure.

Only home-based players are chosen for the game and the Fluminense pair are not the only surprises in Mano Menezes’ squad.

Botafogo midfielder Fellype Gabriel wins a first call up, as does Durval, Santos’ 32-year old centre half.

The squad contains five players from Fluminense, four from Atletico Mineiro and three each from Corinthians and Santos.

The full list

Goalkeepers: Jefferson (Botafogo) and Diego Cavalieri (Fluminense).

Full backs: Marcos Rocha (Atlético-MG), Lucas Marques (Botafogo), Carlinhos (Fluminense) and Fábio Santos (Corinthians).

Central defenders: Réver (Atlético-MG), Durval (Santos) and Leonardo Silva (Atlético-MG).

Defensive midfielders: Arouca (Santos), Paulinho (Corinthians), Jean (Fluminense) and Ralf (Corinthians).

Attacking midfielders: Thiago Neves (Fluminense), Bernard (Atlético-MG) and Fellype Gabriel (Botafogo).

Forwards: Neymar (Santos), Leandro Damião (Internacional) and Fred (Fluminense)

 

The reformed Maracana stadium in Rio, where the 2014 World Cup final will be held

Brazil won the right to host the 2014 World Cup five years ago yesterday.

Since that decision was made, Brazil’s politicians have repeatedly assured us the tournament would be organised efficiently, transparently and with a minimum of cost to the taxpayer.

“The event will have total transparency,” said President Lula. “We are going to put on an unforgettable World Cup. That’s the commitment. You can hold us to it.”

“Public money isn’t going to be used for the World Cup,” said Ricardo Teixeira, the former head of the CBF.

“There won’t be one cent of public money used to build stadiums,” said then Sports Minister Orlando Silva.

We can now see that none of it was true.

  • The vast majority of the money being used is taxpayer’s money.
  • Transport projects, the ones that would lave the biggest legacy for Brazilians, and especially the less well off, are being scaled back.
  • At least four of the 12 stadiums are destined to be white elephants, according to the government’s own Accounting Court.
  • The main beneficiaries so far are construction companies, who not coincidentally are among the biggest contributors to Brazil’s politicians.

I’ve written about this in a long Reuters piece that is now online.

The piece focuses on the promised transparency and how authorities have failed to provide reliable, up-to-date, and clear information on spending.

Gil Castello Branco, the secretary general of Contas Abertas, a non-profit group that monitors public expenditures, summed it up thus:

Officials boasted that tracking spending would be “so easy that any citizen could sit on his sofa and see where the money was being spent.”

“But it doesn’t matter if you’re on the sofa, in the kitchen, or at the office, no one knows how much this is costing,” he added.

“The information we get is incomplete, contradictory and late. And frequently misleading.”

So, Lula, Teixeira, Orlando Silva. We’re holding you to that commitment. What now?

Kaka, expected to return to the Brazil side today against Iraq

Brazil play Iraq today in yet another meaningless friendly far from their own fans.

Holding international matches in neutral countries is part of a growing trend.

An American editor asked me why this was an issue.

I explained that national sides used to play in their national stadiums against other national teams in front of their own fans.

Maybe I am old, but I think that’s correct.  A national side shouldn’t be heading off to play at the home of the highest bidder or where it can make most money.

I wrote about this in detail here for Reuters.

While doing so I realised the trend was worse than I imagined.

I discovered that Ireland played Italy in Belgium and Oman in England. England played Brazil in Qatar and Italy in Switzerland. Argentina played Nigeria in Bangladesh and Venezuela in India. Argentina versus Venezuela in Calcutta!!!

This is a worrying issue for most teams but what makes it worse for Brazil, as opposed to European sides, is that the CBF does not halt the Brazilian league when the national side plays friendlies.

So players are taken from their clubs at the most important time of the season to fly 12 hours to play third-rate opposition in a meaningless game. It makes a mockery of the Brazilian championship. There were important games last night and Sao Paulo, Vasco, Botafogo and Santos all had to play without one of their top players.

Striker Neymar, for example, has played 15 times for Santos in the league this season. He has already played nine times for Brazil and is expected to feature against both Iraq today and against Japan in Wroclaw on Oct. 16.

It’s a ridiculous situation. Something needs to change and I don’t just mean adjusting the Brazilian league schedule to run at the same time as leagues in Europe.

Here I go being old again, but national sides shouldn’t be available for hire.

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