The country of Brazil is the pantheon of soccer. It is the place where soccer brilliance was discovered. The English invented the sport, but there is no doubt that Brazilians perfected it.
Brazil has produced so much world-class talent over the years that it is almost criminal to think they have ever lost in a major tournament. There is no question that Brazil has enough talent to field three competitive national teams at next summer’s World Cup, but is there such thing as a country having too much talent?
Brazilian soccer players have truly embraced the globalization of the world’s game. A soccer fan would find it hard pressed to name a powerhouse team on any continent that doesn’t have a Brazilian in its ranks. This is where the dilemma lies: in the selection process. Former Brazilian coaches Dunga and Mano Menezes both struggled to find the right core group of players to mesh together properly.
Has Luiz Felipe Scolari found the right combination of players to hoist the World Cup trophy on home soil in 2014? Is the Confederations Cup final victory over Spain evidence that Brazil is back to being a global power? No one can argue the dominant fashion in which Brazil bulldozed over Spain in the Confederations Cup final.
The difference between the two sides is that Spain has been consistent over the last few years, and Brazil’s form has fluctuated. Spain has a stable coach in Vicente Del Bosque, who in the past 12 months has only called up 39 players. He relies on his usual suspects every year to get it done at all the major tournaments.
In contrast to Del Bosque, Scolari has called up 72 players to his Brazilian squad in that same 12-month span. Having such a big talent pool to choose from can be a luxury, but one can argue that the abundance of riches can create a lack of continuity in a squad as well.
The most interesting issue about these 72 selections is that in the past year, some of the brightest Brazilian talents have not been selected. Shakhtar Donetsk of the Ukraine league is known as a Brazilian colony in Europe. Some of the best young Brazilian talents reside there.
They just recently signed 20-year-old Brazilian wunderkind Bernard from Brazilian side Athletico Minero for €22 million. Bernard was a super-sub during the Confederations cup, and looks very much a part of Scolari’s plans for this summer’s World Cup in Brazil.
If anyone saw the Champions League last year and witnessed the whooping Shakhtar put on Chelsea, it would be hard-pressed to have missed the Brazilian influence in that team.
Willian and Fernandinho were the unquestioned stars of that Shahktar team, and cited their main reason for leaving the club as the lack of respect they received in terms of call-ups to the Brazilian national team. Willian received his first international cap in 2010 and has only put on the Selecão shirt on one other occasion. Shakhtar sold Willian in the January transfer window to Russian giants Anzhi Makhachkala for €35 million.
Fernandinho had his first international cap in 2011 and has had five total appearances for the Selecão (none this year). Shakhtar cashed in on Fernandinho this summer, selling him to lavish-spending Manchester City of the EPL for €30 million.
How can a National team afford to not call up two players who were recently sold for a combined €65 million? The fact that Ronaldinho and Kaka have been called up in the past 12 months and Willian and Fernandinho haven’t is almost laughable.
From the looks of it, Scolari seems to favor players who play on home soil. Nine out of his 23 selections for the Confederations cup came from the Brazilian top flight — a staggering number, considering how many Brazilians ply their trade in the top leagues in Europe.
A glaring omission to the Confederations Cup squad was the energetic Ramires of Chelsea. Scolari left many supporters and soccer pundits scratching their heads with this decision. Ramires is one of the best box-to-box midfielders in world football. He is a model of consistency, and his form over this past season was definitely worthy of a call-up.
Maybe it’s time Scolari set his gaze upon Europe more often, where the most talented Brazilians in the world play in the best leagues in the world.