Brazil blog: Scolari takes chance to assess all options
Familiar names Neymar and Oscar did the damage for Brazil in successive victories on the Far East leg of their World Cup warm-up global tour.
Both matches were inevitable cases of breaking down stubborn resistance. Neymar was kicked to pieces by South Korea in Seoul, but had the last laugh when he curled a free kick over the wall and in on the stroke of half time.
Neymar then turned provider in Beijing’s Birds Nest, crossing a free kick for backup Brazil defender Dede to nod in. Had he bought this set piece through a penchant for going down too easily?
Oscar’s fine scoring record under Big Phil Scolari also continued when a deflected, looping effort later found the top corner.
This pair is guaranteed to be key squad members in less than eight months’ time when the wait is over.
When the latest roster was announced, you had to be impressed by strength and depth of Brazilian midfield options. Accompanying Oscar and Paulinho was Liverpool’s recalled Lucas Leiva after injury.
Such a trio would easily make a fine combination to start the World Cup finals for Brazil. Add Oscar’s Chelsea teammate Ramires into the mix and you would definitely have Premier League fans interested and excited.
But there is more than just three from four for Scolari to choose from. Lazio playmaker Hernanes and Champions League winner Luiz Gustavo, the destroyer who has since left Bayern Munich for Wolfsburg, also make compelling cases.
Fernando of Shakhtar Donetsk, Tottenham’s holding player Sandro, forgotten man Fernandinho or the temptation to choose a member of the old guard like Kaka or Ronaldinho remain options for Big Phil.
The selection headache here is just one of several for him. In the absence of target man Fred, Brazil have auditioned one-time Manchester City misfit Jo and Alexandre Pato. Neither has pressed their claims for the lone striker berth.
Leandro Damiao, perpetually linked with Spurs, is also to come back from injury. It seems Scolari could end up picking two from those four as his spearhead options.
It’s who gets the nod wide right for Brazil that causes the most contention though. Big Phil has favoured Hulk, despite little evidence of his assets in international games.
Big and powerful, Hulk can only come inside from that flank onto his favoured left foot. Club form at Zenit St Petersburg has picked up after a shaky start, but he has not scored for Scolari yet.
PSG’s Lucas Moura and particularly Bernard, another of the Brazilian contingent plying their trade in Donetsk, are pushing hard for to take the place of Hulk.
The choice of club may come back to bite Bernard as national coaches have often ignored players in Ukraine. Just ask Manchester City’s Fernandinho.
A continuation of this trend would explain why Bernard was reduced to the role of sub after starting in Hulk’s absence in September.
Brazil at the back
In defence meanwhile, David Luiz ably deputized with the armband for the injured Thiago Silva. Even more startlingly, he played with real discipline and the reward was two clean sheets.
Dante, another European Cup winner with Munich, is very much the third man here, but beyond that a fourth centre half could come from anywhere.
It’s pretty clear Scolari is going to select experienced wingbacks. On the right side Dani Alves and Maicon have played a wealth of internationals between them.
The same cannot be said of the opposite flank. Marcelo and Maxwell have the Champions League pedigree which more than compensates for their lack of caps.
Julio Cesar missed out between the sticks because he is not playing at club level. Big Phil needs his first choice stopper getting games, so a January move from QPR is essential.
Victor, Jefferson and Diego Cavalieri are raw and totally untested at this level. Brazil’s understudies simply do not leap off the page at you in the goalkeeping department.
Honduras next month will provide no sterner test for Scolari than this month’s opposition.
Brazil still have a number of decisions to make, and they are not getting any easier as World Cup hosting duties get nearer.