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Phil Scolari sticks to bulk of Brazil squad for World Cup

| 07.05.2014

Brazil boss Luiz Felipe Scolari literally has the hopes of a nation on his shoulders. The World Cup hosts are 3/1 favourites to win their own finals with Coral.

Former Chelsea coach Scolari, christened ‘Big Phil’ by the British tabloids during his stint at Stamford Bridge, has lifted football’s richest prize before back in 2002 and must deliver again on home soil.

To that end, he has kept faith with the vast majority – about two-thirds to be more precise – of the squad he selected for last summer’s victorious Confederations Cup campaign.

Scolari has not gone through the charade of naming a provisional roster and then making cuts. Instead, he has named his final 23-man squad, barring injury, already.

QPR outcast Julio Cesar will be the Samba Boys’ goalie at the final, after taking the somewhat desperate step of joining MLS franchise Toronto on loan earlier this year. Botafogo stopper Jefferson and Atletico Mineiro counterpart Victor act as backup.

Big Phil has gone for experience in the full back, read wing back, berths with Barcelona’s Dani Alves and former Manchester City man Maicon (now at Roma) still the options on the right. The likes of Bundesliga winner Rafinha (Bayern Munich) and Rafael of Manchester United are overlooked.

Atletico Madrid pair Joao Miranda and Filipe Luis may feel more aggrieved at being omitted, however, as they are two of the only three current Brazil internationals likely to feature in the Champions League final.

Napoli defender Henrique beat Miranda to the fourth centre back spot, but will just be at the finals as backup to David Luiz (Chelsea) and Thiago Silva (PSG) alongside Dante (Bayern Munich). This tournament comes too early for Silva’s Parc des Princes teammate Marquinhos.

There is a further PSG presence at the back in the guise of Maxwell, but former Chelsea centre half Alex has been out of favour since the 2011 Copa America. Real Madrid’s Marcelo completes the defensive options.

In midfield, Scolari has retained anchor Luiz Gustavo despite his mystifying summer switch from Munich to Wolfsburg. There is also a box-to-box presence typified by Tottenham’s Paulinho and Ramires – another of the Chelsea contingent.

Manchester City star Fernandinho has made the cut, after proving to Big Phil he can cut in a top European league. Liverpool pair Lucas Leiva and Philippe Coutinho have not been so fortunate, however.

Oscar and Willian complete the Chelsea quartet in the Samba Boys’ squad, and they represent versatile options for Scolari to fit into his advanced midfield three. Hernanes, who switched Serie A clubs from Lazio to Inter Milan in January, is also included at the expense of experienced names like Kaka and Ronaldinho.

Bernard (Shakhtar Donetsk) is competing with Zenit St Petersburg top scorer Hulk (a 33/1 shot to do this for his country at the finals) and Neymar, the poster boy of the Brazil finals for a wide berth. This means Robinho and Lucas Moura have missed out on selection.

Workmanlike target man Fred, who won the Golden Boot at the Confederations Cup (33/1 to be top scorer again), will lead the Samba Boys attack, with former Everton and Manchester City flop Jo as his backup. The latter has done well when called upon by Scolari, so is in on international merit more than anything else.

Leandro Damiao, who was injured on the eve of the Confederations Cup last summer, has not shown the same promise since returning, so has been omitted alongside ex-AC Milan frontman Alexandre Pato.

Punters should expect Brazil’s starting XI against Croatia in the tournament opener on June 12th to bear a great resemblance to the side Scolari regularly used 12 months ago. That means Cesar behind a back four of Alves, Silva, Luiz and Marcelo; Paulinho and Gustavo in the engine room; and Hulk, Oscar and Neymar supporting Fred in attack.

It would be a great shock if Big Phil’s Brazilian blend differed from this. That team won the Confederations Cup, so knows the course and distance albeit facing far stronger competition and more rounds.

Scolari and the Samba Boys are deserved favourites, as they have suffered just two friendly defeats in his second spell, and are odds-on at 2/7 to kick the competition off with victory.

Star forward Neymar took just three minutes to net the opener at the Confederations Cup. Back him to be tournament top scorer on home soil at 14/1.



Jamie Clark

Athletics aficionado, die-hard snooker fan and Crystal Palace supporter Jamie has written for Coral since February 2014 after spells with Soccerlens and the Press Association as a digital journalist and copywriter. A former East Midlands sports correspondent and Bwin tipster, he is a graduate of both the University of York and University of Sheffield, with a Masters in web journalism from the latter.