Brazil coach Mano Menezes announced his selection of players for September friendlies against South Africa and China on Thursday. Menezes selected many of the players who played in the 2012 Olympics and Brazil's recent friendly against Sweden. Mano dropped Paulo Henrique Ganso and Alexandre Pato from the squad, the latter of whom is suffering from a recent injury. In addition to players from the Olympic squad, the selection features Barcelona's Dani Alves, Corinthians defensive midfielder Paulinho, Chelsea midfielder Ramires, Vasco da Gama's exciting central defender Dede and Atletico Mineiro's central defender Rever.
Highlights of Mano's squad selection include the following:
•The continued omission of Ronaldinho and Kaka, who now appear to be almost squarely out of contention for a spot in the national team as long as Menezes is in charge
•The return of Real Madrid's Marcelo to the left back position after sitting out the game against Sweden due to a red card earned in the recent friendly against Argentina
•The inclusion of Olympic stars Oscar, Neymar, Leandro Damiao and Hulk
•The inclusion of Dede and Rever as alternatives to Juan Jesus and Bruno Uvini from the Olympic squad
Overall, it appears that Mano wants to keep the same formation as he did in the Olympics by playing with three attackers in the form of Neymar, Leandro Damiao and Hulk. Oscar will play behind the attacking three. The only remaining question is whether Sandro and Romulo will partner deeper in midfield, or whether Mano will opt for Paulinho or Arouca as options behind Oscar. Another possibility -- and we saw this against Sweden -- is to start with Oscar and Ramires behind Neymar and Damiao, and drop Hulk from the starting lineup.
The only thing that makes this squad interesting is the deserved omission of Ganso even though the Santos midfielder received much adulation from the Brazilian press over the last two years. That said, Oscar still needs help in midfield and it's not clear that the players are there to support him. On a good note, Mano is shoring up Brazil's defensive back line after the Mexico debacle and the friendly against Argentina where they conceded four goals. Talk of Dede's inclusion in the Selecao has been in the works for a long time, now, and this is a terrific opportunity for him to build on his substitute performance against Sweden on August 15.
Brazil play South Africa on September 7 at the Morumbi Stadium in Sao Paulo and then face China on September 10 at the Arruda Stadium in Recife. Failure to win even one of these friendlies will mean that the chorus for Mano's dismissal will grow even louder than at present. Today's squad selection is disappointing given the availability of the likes of Hernanes and Fernandinho, but Mano deserves credit for choosing several Brazil-based players that may be more adaptable to his fluid vision for the team.
Brazil Squad For September Friendlies Against South Africa and China
Goalkeepers: Cássio (Corinthians), Diego Alves (Valencia), Jefferson (Botafogo)
Central Defenders: Dedé (Vasco), Réver (Atlético-MG), Thiago Silva (PSG), David Luiz (Chelsea)
Wide Defenders: Adriano (Barcelona), Alex Sandro (Porto), Daniel Alves (Barcelona), Marcelo (Real Madrid)
Midfielders: Arouca (Santos), Lucas Moura (São Paulo), Oscar (Chelsea), Paulinho (Corinthians), Ramires (Chelsea), Rômulo (Spartak Moscow), Sandro Ranieri (Tottenham)
Strikers: Hulk (Porto), Jonas (Valencia), Leandro Damião (Internacional), Neymar (Santos)