Today, Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari announced the selection of 16 Europe-based players for Brazil's friendly against South Africa on March 5. The squad selection featured few surprises and suggests that Scolari and technical director Carlos Alberto Parreira are closing in on their final roster for World Cup 2014. Robinho and Kaka, for example, were omitted from the squad in the clearest indication to date that neither AC Milan player will feature in World Cup 2014. Bayern Munich right back Rafinha represented the most surprising inclusion in the squad for the South Africa friendly. Meanwhile, Manchester City's Fernandinho was also included after several stellar performances at the club level led to rumors of his impending recall.
Highlights of the squad selection are as follows:
- Selection of the defensive triumvirate of David Luiz, Thiago Silva and Dante for the two slots in Brazil's central defensive pairing
- Continuation of the defensive midfield partnership of Luiz Gustavo and Paulinho, although we should expect to see Fernandinho at some point in the friendly against South Africa
- Oscar or Ramires will earn the playmaker role behind the attacking triumvirate of Neymar, Willian and Hulk
- Bernard and Ramires may play wide roles to substitute for Neymar and Hulk, depending on fitness and form
- Julio Cesar retains his spot in the squad despite performing in scarcely a handful of games at QPR
Notable exclusions include Lucas Leiva due to injury, and Hernanes. Scolari spoke of the decision to include Fernandinho and Rafinha as follows:
Fernandinho's been playing really well for Manchester [City], he's been attracting attention ... so here's his opportunity...Rafinha's also been playing really well for Bayern. He's had experience of playing for the national team at other levels.
In addition to the players announced today, Scolari plans to pick three or four Brazil-based players in late February or early March because many have yet to achieve full fitness given the late start specific to the Brazilian domestic football calendar. Possible domestic players that may be up for selection include Dede, Leandro Damiao, Paulo Henrique Ganso and goalkeeper Jefferson. Meanwhile, the drama about Fluminense striker Fred continues as he struggles to recover from a lingering thigh injury in time for the World Cup.
Provisional Squad For March 5, Brazi v. South Africa friendly in Soccer City, Johannesburg
Goalkeeper: Julio Cesar (QPR)
Defenders: David Luiz (Chelsea), Dante (Bayern Munich), Thiago Silva (Paris Saint-Germain), Daniel Alves (Barcelona), Rafinha (Bayer Munich), Marcelo (Real Madrid)
Midfielders: Luiz Gustavo (Wolfsburg), Paulinho (Tottenham), Fernandinho (Manchester City), Ramires (Chelsea), Oscar (Chelsea)
Strikers: Neymar (Barcelona), Willian (Chelsea), Hulk (Zenit), Bernard (Shakhtar Donetsk)