Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari will announce his 23-man squad for the 2014 World Cup on May 7 after recently revealing eight members of the squad in the form of potential captains Thiago Silva, David Luiz, Julio Cesar and Fred and the Premier League quartet of Oscar, Willian, Ramires and Paulinho. "Big Phil," who previously led Brazil to World Cup glory in 2002, has said that he has not revealed the remaining 15 players to anyone, including his wife, although he did note that they could be reasonably deciphered based on his previous history of squad selections and conversations with players. Scolari and Brazil's technical director Carlos Alberto Parreira have taken two positions on their final roster for the 2014 World Cup. On one hand, Parreira has maintained that the squad will contain no surprises as measured by previous call-ups and squad selections for Brazil's friendlies and competitive games. On the other hand, Scolari has staunchly asserted that his final squad selection will be influenced heavily by the performance of his players at their clubs, particularly in the final third of the season.
Given those disclaimers in mind, former World Cup Champions Ronaldinho and Kaka look set not to make the initial 23 man roster, with Ronaldinho, in particular, almost definitively exiled from the squad. Brazil's squad for the 2013 Confederations Cup, in which Brazil lifted the trophy and beat teams such as France, Mexico, Italy and Spain en route to the title, provides a useful guide to a preliminary look at the World Cup squad.
Looking ahead to the Brazil 2014 World Cup squad, however, we should expect a handful of changes both in midfield and in defense, particularly with respect to backup selections for central defenders Thiago Silva and David Luiz, fullbacks Dani Alves and Marcelo and the midfield triumvirate of Luiz Gustavo, Paulinho and Oscar. In the left back position, Scolari will need to choose either Maxwell or Atletico Madrid's Filipe Luis as the backup for Real Madrid's Marcelo. Maxwell's wealth of experience and partnership alongside Thiago Silva at Paris Saint-Germain means that he has a slight edge over Filipe Luis, but Luis boasts more recent experience defending against Lionel Messi, which could prove critical if Brazil were to face Argentina in the latter stages of the tournament. Meanwhile, AS Roma's Maicon and Bayern Munich's Rafinha will battle it out for the position of backup to Dani Alves, with Maicon likely to make the cut given his 2010 World Cup experience and comfort surging forward to join the attack.
In midfield, Ramires returns to the squad and is likely to be accompanied by Fernandinho, both of whom replace Porto's Fernando and Jadson. Because Willian has already earned a place in the squad, the wild card midfield spot goes to either Lucas Leiva, Hernanes, Lucas Moura or Phillipe Coutinho. Given Scolari's emphasis on defense, Lucas Leiva looks likely to earn a World Cup spot and provide further steel to a squad that is built around its defensive prowess and ability to win back the ball in midfield. Either Oscar, Willian or Ramires will function as the playmaker behind the attacking trio of Neymar, Fred and Hulk as follows:
Brazil Squad For World Cup 2014 (Projected)
Goalkeepers: Júlio César (Toronto FC), Diego Cavalieri (Fluminense), Jefferson (Botafogo)
Central Defenders: Thiago Silva (Paris Saint-Germain), Réver (Atletico Mineiro), David Luiz (Chelsea), Dante (Bayern Munich)
Fullbacks: Dani Alves (Barcelona), Maicon (AS Roma), Marcelo (Real Madrid), Maxwell (Paris Saint-Germain)
Midfielders: Paulinho (Tottenham Hotspur), Lucas Leiva (Liverpool), Luiz Gustavo (Wolfsburg), Oscar (Chelsea), Ramires (Chelsea), Fernandinho (Manchester City), Bernard (Shaktar Donetsk), Willian (Chelsea)
Strikers: Fred (Fluminense), Jo (Atletico Mineiro), Hulk (Zenit), Neymar (Santos)
The starting lineup in attack will remain the same as the 2013 Confederations Cup, with Fred in a center forward position and Neymar on the left, with Hulk on the right. All in all, Scolari has at its disposal a mouthwatering squad for Brazil that is highly balanced and bursting with young players who are eager to make their mark on the world stage. Willian can substitute for Fred if required and Bernard represents a dangerous attacking option to complement Neymar and Hulk. Brazil has the most complete squad in the world today and will be very difficult to beat on home soil, particularly if they can build on their strengths in defense and free up the creative players to express themselves in the latter third of the park.
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