The expectation is in the air. The World Cup is just a couple of weeks away and we are still left wondering if Brazil is definitely ready to host it. General strikes and protests are popping up all around the country. Public transportation chaos, banners and screams of “Não vai ter Copa” (The World Cup will not happen) fill the streets.
Some of the stadiums that will be used for matches still haven’t been properly tested. The Army has been called by the President to guarantee the safety of the event. So, yes, we do have reasons to feel anxious.
When the called-up players arrived at the training ground Granja Comary, they were greeted by protesters requesting more investment in health and education. Later, questioned about how that made them feel, Marcelo gave the reporters a simple answer: “Our job is to play football and give Brazilian people joy. There’s nothing else we can do.” He is spot on.
And when it comes to the football itself, stripped down of all the politics and all the noise, Brazil, the national team, is on top. Felipão is eager to prove himself as a double World Cup winner, while the young squad he selected – mixed up with the right level of experience – is eager to prove itself on the biggest football stage that exists.
Scolari is a coach that players know they can count on because he is pretty loyal to the ones he trusts, hence the “Família Scolari” motto that summarizes the way he embraces them. We should not expect any changes from what we witnessed during the Confederations Cup last year, and, as an example of this, for the first training session, he selected as starters the same 11 who won that title.
In goal, the options are Julio Cesar, Victor, and Jefferson, with the former being able to enjoy the coach’s reassurance that he’s the starter regardless of his club situation in the past year. Personally, I rate Victor as a top-notch goalkeeper, and I hope he gets a chance to shine and play a part in Brazil’s campaign.
PSG’s new centre back partners David Luiz and Thiago Silva will play alongside Marcelo and Daniel Alves as back four, which is one of the most solid defenses we can expect to watch in the tournament. There were some questions over the omission of La Liga winners, Felipe Luís and Miranda, but considering they hadn’t been included in previous friendly squads, knowing the coach, they wouldn’t be given the thumbs up for the actual World Cup team.
Paulinho, despite a poor season at Tottenham, is said to have gotten all teary when Felipão talked to him and told him it wouldn’t affect his position at the NT, therefore, he’s sharing the defensive midfielder duty with Luiz Gustavo. The other players available for the position are Ramires, Fernandinho and Hernanes.
Hulk, Neymar and Oscar are the creative trio, with Fred upfront in the 4-2-3-1 tactical shape that has already been tested, and it has proved quite efficient in not only scoring goals but also bringing the flair that lacked in Brazil’s side in the last few years. Bernard and Willian are also capable of helping out when called up from the bench to bring something new in case we find ourselves in need of freshening up.
Brazil’s group adversaries are Croatia, Cameroon and Mexico. The Croatians seem to be falling apart with injuries lately, and we can only wonder how much this will affect their performance. Cameroon recently lost in a friendly to Paraguay and haven’t been able to count on their star player Samuel Eto’o due to physical issues.
Mexico is the one that brings more worries to the host side, especially their efficiency in the air. The defeat to them on the Olympics final surely still stings in some of the players and could provide an entertaining match. However, it is hard to conceive something other than Brazil topping the group after the 3 matches are played.
To keep the spirits up, Felipão has vetoed any mention to the defeat to Uruguay in the 1950 World Cup final played at Maracanã while preparing the current squad. All the players talk about how much it would mean to them to win it at their own country. Uruguay, Italy, England, Germany, Argentina and France have all tasted the sweet feeling of winning it at home. Hopefully, Brazil will follow in their steps this year.
Brazil, the host nation, certainly can raise concerns. Brazil, the national team, however, is more than ready.
Here’s to the sixth title. Vamos Brasil!
Follow Deborah on Twitter @Binhaf