Chosen trusted players over those in form
8 May ~ The press conference at which Luiz Felipe Scolari announced his World Cup squad was arguably the easiest 45 minutes the veteran Brazilian coach has ever faced. The 23-man list named was largely devoid of controversy as the assembled media patted friendly questions in his direction. Scolari himself recalled that by contrast in 2002 he had to change hotel at the last minute to free himself from media intent on pursuing the issue of the non-selection of Romário, one the heroes of the 1994 World Cup win.
The selection of Henrique as standby centre-back is the choice that is generating most discussion now. In the case of the Napoli centre-back, his experience under Scolari at Palmeiras counted for more than current form, which would have seen Atlético Madrid's Miranda earning a place in the squad.
Scolari had progressively diminished the number of available places in confirming almost half of the names, including the Chelsea quartet of David Luiz, Oscar, Ramires and Willian at previous sponsors' events. These partial announcements highlight that some members of the "Scolari family" are more equal than others. With Scolari also appearing in a battery of TV commercials, there is a feeling in Brazil that he realises that this is potentially his last big payday.
Scolari also skilfully sidestepped questions about the few home-based players in the squad (four made it this time), thereby dodging the ongoing debate about the decline of the domestic game. The coach certainly is enjoying a relatively easy ride after winning the Confederations Cup, basically justifying his more debatable selections with the mantra that "Player X is a player who I can trust".
Brazil have never won a World Cup with a squad containing so few players with experience of playing in previous finals, however. Without participating in qualifiers, this group is not as battle-hardened as some predecessors, more seasoned players such as Kaká, Ronaldinho and Robinho having ruled themselves out with inconsistent form.
Scolari was successful in 2002 and last year in the Confederations Cup in mobilising public and press behind the Seleção. With the Brazilian public being more sceptical about the benefits to be accrued from the World Cup this unity is potentially fragile.
Ultimately Scolari's most controversial selection may prove to be the first name he confirmed – back in 2013. Goalkeeper Júlio César was chosen despite playing months of reserve team football in England before moving to Canada with Toronto FC. Given that the keeper was at fault in the 2010 World Cup quarter-final defeat by Holland, Scolari's insistence on having him as first choice looks like a hostage to fortune. Robert Shaw