Luiz Felipe Scolari has the enviable task of selecting the 23-man Brazil squad for the 2014 World Cup. But while it’s undoubtedly a privileged position that ‘Big Phil’ finds himself in, it’s also a high-pressured one.
Indeed, being the host nation brings with it an elevated sense of expectation from that nation. That’s part of the deal, particularly when the nation in question is five-time tournament winners Brazil.
Scolari, who led the Selecao to their last World Cup victory in Japan 12 years ago, will announce his full squad on May 7. But the 65-year-old has indicated that he has already decided on 21 players that will be in his 23-strong battalion.
Several players can, however, be certain of their place. Big Phil has stated that his four captains will be PSG’s Thiago Silva, David Luiz of Chelsea, Julio Cesar, who currently plies his trade with Toronto in the MLS, and Fluminense striker Fred.
Naturally, Neymar is a name that will be on the squad sheet. And Luiz’s Chelsea teammates Oscar, Ramires and Willian are all safe bets, as is Tottenham midfielder Paulinho. That’s nine players than can rest easy.
That leaves 14 places – 12 players that Scolari has already decided on, and two that are still up for grabs. Let’s take a look at selection of the leading candidates, in no particular order, for inclusion in Big Phil’s elite 23…
It’s hard to envisage Barcelona man Alves not being the first choice right back for the Selecao. At his best, he is reminiscent of the great Roberto Carlos, bombing down the flank and, also like Carlos, the 30-year-old is a a real free-kick specialist.
Though not one of the more high profile players in a star-studded Man City side, Fernandinho is a fulcrum in the middle of the park. Impressive in the Premier League this season, he also has an eye for goal, which is unusual for a deep-lying midfielder.
The 27-year-old has slipped under the radar since his £39m switch to Russian outfit Zenit St Petersburg from Porto, but he remains a prolific goalscorer. His brawn befits his name, and it will be a surprise if he’s not part of Big Phil’s summer plans.
The midfielder has 17 Brazil caps, and represented the Selecao at the 2012 Olympic Games. However, the 25-year-old has had a turbulent debut season in the Premier League with Tottenham and his place in the squad is far from assured.
He is one of the most naturally gifted players of his generation, but Kaka, 31, has been plagued with injuries during his career. Still, he has been in fine form for AC Milan of late, scoring three times in his last eight games, and may well make the cut.
Though now 33, Ronaldinho still possesses the trickery that he was synonymous with earlier in his career. He has been side-lined with a groin injury since September, but the Atletico Mineiro man remains hopeful of a call-up from Scolari.
The Wolfsburg midfielder, who is reportedly a summer transfer target for Arsenal and Tottenham, is a solid holding midfielder and provides an effective shield for the defence as Brazil do what they do best – attack. He looks sure to be on Big Phil’s list.
Brazil 2014 World Cup betting odds*:
Group A betting – Brazil are a top-priced 1/4 to win their group with 888sport
World Cup Outright betting – the Selecao are clear favourites at 3/1 generally; however, bet365 go 11/4
To Reach The Final betting – you can currently back Brazil to reach the final at 9/5 with Paddy Power
2014 World Cup Top Goalscorer betting – Neymar is 14/1 to win the Golden Boot in Brazil this summer
Highest Scoring Team betting – Scolari’s side are 7/2 with Betfair to score the most goals in the World Cup
Player of The tournament betting – Neymar is 8/1 with BetVictor to be crowned the top player in the 2014 World Cup
*Prices correct at the time of writing.