Brazil soccer coach Mano Menezes announced a list of 23 players for Brazil's upcoming friendlies against Denmark, the United States, Mexico and Argentina. Notably, Menezes omitted Ronaldinho even though the two time FIFA World Player of the Year had been listed in a provisional list of over 50 players for the Olympic squad. Ronaldinho's omission from the Brazil roster for its upcoming friendlies almost certainly means that the Flamengo star is likely to be omitted from the 2012 Olympic squad. Kaka, Robinho, Ramires and Hernanes were also omitted as the Brazil coach opted to focus on youth, particularly in midfield. In case there was any doubt as to the relation between the squad he named today and Brazil's squad for the Olympics, Mano remarked, "It's correct to affirm that these 23 names are the base of the Olympic team. It's unlikely we will make any changes. After making evaluations in the last few months, we think these are the names (for London)."
AC Milan's Alexandre Pato was recalled after a lengthy hiatus from the Brazilian national team due to injury problems. Pato joins Neymar, Leandro Damiao and FC Porto's Hulk in an intriguing attacking line up that is likely to feature three strikers. Expect to pencil Neymar's name into the squad in ink given his spectacular performances for Santos over the last couple of years. Neymar, who generally plays on the left, is likely to be supplemented by Leandro Damiao in the center forward role and Hulk in his traditional position as a right winger.
The options in midfield are such that Mano Menezes has virtually conceded the center of the park to Paulo Henrique Ganso, the Santos playmaker and attacking midfielder who is known for his ability to read games and single-handedly change the tempo of a game. Ganso has an almost telepathic relationship with Neymar and is famous for delivering killer passes to the spiky haired Santos striker. Separately, Ganso combines well with Neymar on dangerous attacking plays in which he takes the goal scoring initiative as an attacking midfielder.
Ganso will be supplemented by Tottenham's defensive midfielder Sandro and Lucas Moura of Sao Paulo, the attacking midfielder with extraordinary pace and dribbling ability. Casemiro and Oscar, FIFA U-20 World Cup champions, bring additional flair to the midfield mix. Oscar scored the hat-trick against Portugal in the final of the U-20 World Cup and has been dubbed the new Kaka because of a similar gait and style of play. The bottom line here is that Brazil's most recent squad is bursting with youth, creativity, vision and attacking power in midfield despite Ronaldinho's absence. Mano explained Ronaldinho's omission by noting:
Supporters need to understand that sometimes they think one man can be the solution to all of Brazilian football's problems and it does not work out like that. Now is the time to look at younger options... If things are not going well, you make a change. But you have to respect Ronaldinho, he is a world champion. He is the type of player who can rebound and surprise everyone.
The back line features the most experienced players in the team in the form of Thiago Silva, Dani Alves, Marcelo and David Luiz, all of whom are over the age of 23. Accounting for goalkeeper Jefferson and Hulk, the Brazil squad currently features six players over the age of 23. That number will need to be trimmed down by half given that the Olympics allows for only three players over the age of 23. Brazil's prototype Olympic squad will play Denmark in Hamburg, Germany on May 26 followed by friendlies against the United States, Mexico and Argentina on May 30, June 3 and June 9 respectively.
Brazil Squad for Friendlies Against Denmark, United States, Mexico and Argentina
Jefferson (Botafogo), Neto (Fiorentina), Rafael (Santos)
Defenders and Wingers
Alex Sandro (Porto), Daniel Alves (Barcelona), Marcelo (Real Madrid), Danilo (Porto), Bruno Uvini (Tottenham), David Luiz (Chelsea), Thiago Silva (AC Milan), Juan (Inter Milan)
Casemiro (Sao Paulo), Romulo (Vasco da Gama), Sandro (Tottenham), Ganso (Santos), Lucas (Sao Paulo), Oscar (Internacional), Giuliano (Dnipro-UCR)
Neymar (Santos), Leandro Damiao (Internacional), Alexandre Pato (AC Milan), Wellington Nem (Fluminense), Hulk (Porto)