Is this the worst Brazilian World Cup squad ever?
Published 18/06/2014 | 17:36
You have to feel sorry for Brazil. After all, the most successful football nation on the planet ends a 64-year wait to host the World Cup just when it has arguably the worst team in its history.
There is a romantic notion about Brazil, fuelled by the images of former players in the yellow and blue, such as Pele, Jairzinho, Ronaldo and Romario, dominating World Cups with their incredible talent.
Even in 1982, when Brazil crashed out of the World Cup in the second round, they still travelled back to South America with the title of people’s champion having stolen hearts with a team consisting of Zico, Socrates, Junior, Eder and Falcao which ranks alongside the Johan Cruyff’s great Dutch side as the best team never to be crowned norld champions.
But after being held to a goalless draw by Mexico in Fortaleza, Luiz Felipe Scolari’s Class of 2014 would now be hard-pressed to escape a billing as the runt of Brazil’s World Cup litter.
Neymar, Scolari’s prodigiously talented No 10, is an undoubted talent and one who will challenge Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo for future Ballon d’Or when he reaches his full potential.
But the 22-year-old is not ready to carry Brazil to the World Cup – especially when you consider the dearth of talent around him.
In 1982, they would joke that Serginho was the worst centre-forward ever to play for Brazil, but the wayward beanpole now has a rival for that title in Fred, who offered nothing during the stalemate against Mexico.
Fred’s problem is that he seems not to understand the offside rule and that he also lacks the movement and finishing prowess required to survive as Brazil’s first-choice centre-forward.
But when the alternative option is Jo, who was an unmitigated disaster at Manchester City and Everton during his dismal spell in the Premier League, it is difficult to see how Scolari can inspire his team to success at this tournament.
Neymar, Thiago Silva and Dani Alves are the only players to have emerged with any kind of credit for Brazil so far at this World Cup.
Paulinho has been anonymous in midfield, with Luiz Gustavo working alongside the Tottenham Hotspur midfielder in a depressingly unambitious Brazilian engine room.
Scolari has bristled at suggestions that he is picking the wrong team and using the wrong personnel, but the 2002 World Cup winning coach is notoriously stubborn when it comes to team selection.
On this occasion, he appears to be cutting his nose off to spite his face by overlooking the claims of Fernandinho in order to stick with Paulinho and Luiz Gustavo.
Willian has also been largely ignored by Scolari, with Ramires also struggling to convince the manager.
Should Scolari have protected Neymar by including the likes of Kaka or Ronaldinho in his squad – two former greats in the twilight of the career, but both with the experience strength of personality required to take the pressure of the young forward?
Kaka and Ronaldinho would be regarded as a backward step, but when the alternative is Fred and Jo – Scolari has also selected Maicon in his squad – perhaps the old-stagers should have been considered, as too should have Paris Saint-Germain winger Lucas Moura.
But when history judges this Brazilian team, it is in danger of being regarded as the worst in recent memory at a World Cup.
Even in 1990, when Argentina eliminated Brazil in the second round, a team led by Careca sailed through the group stage and showed signs of potential winners.
The same cannot be said for the current team and, with a clash with Holland, Spain or Chile on the cards in the second round, Brazil’s World Cup could end before the party has even started.