‘Penta-campeon’ or 5-time champion and eternal favorite Brazil is one of the few teams that announced the squad of 23 players for the world cup with a month to go before the show-piece in South Africa kicks off on June 11th.
Coach Dunga announced a squad full of consistent performers, physically very strong players mirroring his own personality, very unlike the stereotype image of ‘jogo bonito’ (the beautiful game). Kaka to a large extent and Robinho/Nilmar to a lesser extent will add the creative element to an otherwise bland side. The exclusion of Ronaldinho surprised many, especially considering that he has been in good form for AC Milan all through the season. Exclusion of Adriano was largely expected, considering the train-wreck that he is. Lots of supporters in Brazil wanted him to name the young and very talented duo of Santos, Ganso and Neymar but Dunga resisted the temptation and instead went for a set of players who fit his mould and rewarded those who have consistently performed over the past few years.
Caveat: This is not your stereotype Brazilian outfit. Brazil will employ a classic 4-4-2 switching to a 4-3-1-2 every now and then. At the top, a big centre-forward Luis Fabiano (Sevilla) or Grafite (Wolfsburg) will be supported by Robinho who will be given a free role just behind the centre-forward. Kaka will play in the most advanced position in the midfield and will make his trademark powerful runs to the edge of the box with ample options to pass or shoot. One wonders if he has fully recovered from the long injury lay-off at his club Real Madrid but apart from that, Brazil’s hopes largely rest on the shoulders of Kaka. And opposition teams are well aware of this fact.
At the back Lucio and Juan will start in central defence with Bastos and Maicon as the left and right fullbacks. It is a pity that Dani Alves the dynamic right back of Barcelona will be forced to start on the bench. Pep Guardiola at Barcelona has tried Dani Alves on the right side of the midfield in a few games, and the results were mixed. I don’t think Dunga will be that adventurous but he might consider the option in case of suspensions or injuries. The midfield will include the hardworking Ramires, Kaka, Gilberto and either Felipe Melo or Elano.
The main problem for Brazil is the over-dependence on Kaka to do all creative duties and a lot depends on Robinho to attract the fullbacks and the central defenders of the opposition to make way for Kaka to making his runs in the final third of the pitch. Opposition teams will try to hurry Kaka into passing the ball and reduce his effectiveness.
Secondly Brazil is in the toughest group of the world cup alongside a strong Portugal and a very dangerous Cote d’Ivoire, and the complete unknown that is North Korea. I see this group won’t be decided until the last group match, where Brazil takes on Portugal. And to top that whoever comes 2nd in Group G will most likely get to face Spain in the 2nd round.
Finally Brazil don’t have cover for Kaka on the bench. They have to play different style if Kaka has an off day or he cannot play due to injuries. The methodical Dunga will have a plan B but the question is, will it work?
Brazil is in the toughest group in the tough lower half of the draw. I won’t be surprised if the fail to advance from Group G, however it is unthinkable.
I believe Brazil could go all the way to the finals if they don’t meet Spain in Round 2. If they end up running to Spain in the 2nd round, I see about 30% chances that they advance.
Prediction (avoiding Spain): Final
Prediction (Spain in 2nd round): 2nd round elimination
Team Bus Slogan: Lotado! O Brasil inteiro está aqui dentro! (The whole of Brazil is in here!)
Rating: 7/10. Imaginative.