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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:


Julio Cesar – Queens P. Rangers

Diego Cavlaieri – Fluminense

Jefferson – Botafogo



Thiago Silva – Paris Saint Germain

Rever – Atlético Mineiro

David Luiz – Chelsea

Dante – Bayern de Munique



Daniel Alves – Barcelona

Jean – Fluminense

Marcelo – Real Madrid

Filipe Luís – Atlético de Madrid



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

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)

Neymar scored three times at Cruzeiro over the weekend and the home fans chanted his name as their own team went down 4-0.

Part of the reason was disgust with their own team – the fans also chanted “Wee Team, Wee Team” at their own players – but it’s nevertheless highly unusual to see partisan supporters so openly praising a rival, even one as gifted as the Santos superstar.

I’ve been to literally hundreds of football matches to support my team and I can’t remember ever chanting the name of an opponent. Applauding their brilliance, perhaps, but even that happened only on very rare occasions.

In fact, I can only think of two players before now who were worthy of such an honour. Garrincha, when he played for Botafogo back in the 1950s, and Ronaldinho Gaucho, when he was at the top of his game for Barcelona.

That puts Neymar’s performance into context.

Curiously, I’ve seen him play much better than he did on Saturday.

But take a look for yourself, here’s the goals:


The first time I covered the Brazilian seleção was at the Copa America in Paraguay in 1999.

A skinny little teenager called Ronaldinho Gaucho scored his first goal in a yellow jersey and for days the Brazilian press were all over him.

A week or so later, they’d lost interest and he was sitting all alone in the corner of a ballroom at the team hotel. I went over to him and tried to chat. I spoke no Portuguese at the time and he spoke no Spanish and we spent 30 seconds trying to converse. It was useless. I didn’t understand him and he didn’t understand me. We gave up.

Well, now he speaks Spanish and I speak Portuguese and we’ve both come a long way. And on Tuesday night I finally got an interview with Ronaldinho at Atletico Mineiro’s training ground outside Belo Horizonte.

You can see the whole story here at Reuters but it’s essentially a piece on how he’s put the Flamengo debacle behind him and is playing impressive football again with a team leading the league.

The story starts:

A rejuvenated Ronaldinho has established unheralded Atletico Mineiro as favourites to win their first Brazilian league title in four decades with the scintillating form that marked his time at Barcelona.

The charismatic forward has been resplendent in a campaign that has seen Atletico beaten just once in 19 games. With the season half over, his team is top of the table, a point ahead of Fluminense with a game in hand.

Former Manchester City striker Jo is scoring goals, midfielder Bernard has staked a claim for the young player of the season, and Ronaldinho has shown glimpses of the form that won him FIFA World Player of the Year awards in 2004 and 2005.

Ronaldinho has also had a crucial bit of luck. The goal he scored on Sunday against Cruzeiro was one of his best for ages (see below).

It brought him headlines around the world for the first time in years (for the right reasons at least) but what few people seemed to notice was the part that luck played. The last Cruzeiro defender to tackle him actually gets his foot to the ball but rather than knock it out of touch, it hits off Ronaldinho’s shin and falls perfectly for him to slot home.

That’s not taking anything away from him; it’s a great goal. But there are times in your life when these things go right and times when they don’t. Things are going right for Ronaldinho and Atletico now.

Ronaldinho has without doubt been a waster in the past. And I wouldn’t be in the least surprised if there are other scandals involving parties and girls before the season is over.

But I got the impression that he knows exactly what winning the championship with Atletico would mean. In its own way it is every bit as special, and probably much harder, than winning the Champions League with Barcelona.

He certainly understood just how passionate the Galo fans are. He told me:

“The fans are different because haven’t won any major titles for a long time and yet in spite of that they love their team more and more each year. Usually when a team isn’t winning the fans are unhappy. But not here, even though they haven’t won for years, that’s not the case, the fans are passionate and always present and that is different from anywhere else I’ve been.”

It’s been nine years since a team outside Rio or Sao Paulo won the Brazilian league. I can’t think of a more deserving team than Galo to break that streak.

Ronaldinho training with Atletico (from Atletico’s official site)

I started writing a story this morning about Ronaldinho Gaucho’s departure from Flamengo that ended up here on Reuters.

But my first musings were this:

   The question for Ronaldinho is where he goes now. Most doors looks closed to him in his homeland because few clubs can afford his salary demands and fans see him more as a disruptive influence than creative one. One poll asked fans of Brazil’s top flight clubs if they’d welcome Ronaldinho in their side. Supporters at all 20 teams said No.

      Gremio and Palmeiras, the two other clubs who tried to sign him from Milan, have rejected any suggestions they might want to sign him. Both teams are still angry at the way he misled them in contract talks last year – Ronaldinho allegedly promised to sign for both clubs before jilting them for Flamengo – and neither could afford him or put up with the associated problems he brings.

Perhaps the most likely destination is one of football’s emerging markets; the Middle East, the former Soviet republics, China or even the United States. In many of those countries, teams pay top dollar and give their top players more freedom.

How wrong I was. Ronaldinho signed for Atletico Mineiro today.

They must be mad. Even though they are getting him on the cheap, he’s unlikely to reproduce anything like the form that made him the world’s best player two years running.

As Tostao said: “Ronaldo didn’t play like he used to because he didn’t want to. It was because he couldn’t. There’s no mystery. That happens with all athletes, some earlier than others.”

Ronaldinho will turn it on in flashes for Atletico. But unless he’s learnt his lesson at Flamengo and starts becoming a lot more professional then he’ll be out of Belo Horizonte by Christmas.

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