Sambafoot Sunday: Seleção hopes of Brazilians in England's Premier League
Sambafoot Sunday by James Nalton. The beat goes on...
As 2013 draws to an end, the English Premier League is reaching the busiest and most gruelling part of the season. There are a few Brazilians playing in the league who are almost guaranteed a place in Scolari’s World Cup squad, but for those on the fringes, the flurry of games in the next month could be their last chance to shine.
David Luiz and Oscar of Chelsea, and Paulinho of Spurs look to have Seleção places nailed down, and you could probably say that Chelsea’s Ramires has a good chance of being selected as he offers a dynamic alternative in the Brazilian midfield.
Elsewhere there are places up for grabs, and there are several Premier League players amongst Brazil’s best who still need to convince Scolari that they fit into his plans.
Liverpool’s Lucas Leiva has been called up to recent squads, as the Brazil manager looks for a number five who will sit deep, dictate the tempo in attack, and win the ball back quickly in defence. At his best Lucas would be ideal for this, as he’s a great passer and has an eye for an interception in defence. The only problem is that when his concentration drifts he can be caught on the ball, and can also have a tendency to give away unnecessary free kicks in dangerous areas when trying to win the ball back. A solid Christmas period for the Liverpool star could see him cement a place in the squad and make the number five shirt his own.
Another Premier League player vying for this jersey is Sandro of Spurs. Potentially one of the best in the world in a deeper lying role, Sandro’s development was halted by an injury at the start of 2013, which affected his positional development as well as his national team chances. However, now he’s getting regular games in the Spurs starting XI, he’ll be hoping that performances of the type he gave against the United side of Manchester, will be more common than the miserable display he and his team-mates gave against Manchester City.
Speaking of Manchester City, their £30m signing Fernandinho seems to have little chance of adding to his five caps, especially when you consider the amount of competition for these midfield roles. Whilst the 28-year-old plays as the deeper lying of a midfield pair for Manchester City, his best position is probably the number eight Paulinho role, where he can burst forward and influence the attack. Unfortunately for Fernandinho he’s up against two of the best in this position at both club and international level, but could surely do a job for Brazil as back-up for Paulinho, though a call-up this late in the day seems unlikely.
The biggest wildcard of them all could be Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho. His performances since joining the Anfield club must have put him on Scolari’s radar, and his displays of guile and creativity with the ball at his feet could make him the perfect back-up for Neymar and/or Oscar. However, with only one cap to his name the 21-year-old’s inclusion would have to be considered a surprise, especially as he hasn’t played in any of Brazil’s friendlies during their World Cup preparations. The Liverpool number ten starred alongside Oscar in Brazil’s impressive 2011 U-20 World Cup winning side, and it would be a treat for fans to see them link up again. Coutinho will probably have to force Scolari to pick him, but if he continues his form with Liverpool he’ll be difficult to ignore.
If we go back down the M62 to Manchester, we have an outstanding right back who hasn’t got a look-in at national level since he was partly blamed for Brazil’s failure to win Olympic gold in 2012. Rafael of Manchester United was one of the stand-out right full backs in the league last season, perhaps second only to Argentine Pablo Zabaleta over at rivals City, but despite the lack of quality behind Dani Alves for Brazil Rafael still can’t get a look in. A stuttering start to the 2013/14 season under new coach David Moyes won’t have helped his chances, and a call-up looks increasingly unlikely as the weeks pass by.
A player who might have more optimism when it comes to his chances of a call-up, is Chelsea attacking midfielder Willian. He impressed in Brazil’s recent friendly against Honduras where he was amongst the goals in a 5-0 win, linking up well with his team-mates in what was his first appearance for Brazil in just over two years. He’s also impressed for Chelsea when selected, and could be one of the more reliable players for Mourinho during the Portuguese’s less than perfect start to his second stint at Chelsea.
There won’t be many (if any) chances between now and the World Cup for fringe players to impress in a Brazil shirt. They’ll need to do their best for their clubs in order to convince Scolari to take a chance on them when it comes to picking his all-important final squad.