Football Luiz Philipe Scolari

Published on March 6th, 2013 | by Fernando Duarte


Scolari beefs up

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“The Geneva friendly could also be the game where Big Phil does a Rafa and uses David Luiz as a midfielder. With Thiago Silva back and Dante having settled in so well, the Chelsea defender might as well be tested as a possible plughole.” Writes Fernando Duarte

As we speculated here a couple of weeks ago, Luiz Felipe Scolari did decide to call up more defensive midfield players to address the lack of bite that hurt Brazil so much against England last month. The Selecao manager has drafted in two enforcers in the form of Bayern Munich’s Luiz Gustavo and Gremio’s Fernando for the friendlies against Italy and Russia on the 21st and 25th.  Thus, it is more than likely, that Brazil will play more conservatively the next two games, something that not only addresses tactical concerns but also buys Big Phil some time.

Far from being under threat – the Brazilian FA president, José Marin, has already pretty much ruled out another managerial change before the World Cup – Scolari has to play a game of chess with public opinion. Brazilians do not like seeing the Selecao lose and although there has not been a national outcry after the defeat at Wembley, the moans will get louder if Italy, an opponent that has not seen the best of Brazil since that mythic 1982 World Cup game, have the last laugh in the encounter in Geneva.

He can take solace from the fact Luiz Gustavo has had a very decent season, playing as holding player in a side hailed as one of the most exciting in Europe so far. Fernando is a no-nonsense water carrier who seems to multiply on the pitch. It’s unlikely that both will feature at the same time, but one can envisage the duo Ramires and Paulinho being broken up, with Luiz Gustavo coming in as an anchor.

The conclusion is based on Scolari’s opinion that he cannot sacrifice quality upfront in this team. Especially when there isn’t a unanimous choice for the ‘’man in the box’’ the manager is famous for wanting to play with. Luis Fabiano started the game at Wembley but was replaced by Fred, who netted the Selecao goal and earned a comeback for the March friendlies. His understudy will be Atletico Madrid’s Diego Costa, a specialist in standing in the shadows, since he is the second fiddle to a certain Radamel Falcão at the Spanish club.

Kaká is back, but that is hardly big news given that the Real Madrid midfielder has started to get more playing time under Jose Mourinho. The real surprise was the absence of Ronaldinho, who under Scolari seemed to have been granted ‘’untouchable’’ status – after the player’s abysmal display in London, penalty miss included, the manager pretty much absolved him.

At his press conference in Rio this Tuesday, Scolari hinted he will not have Ronaldinho and Kaka in the same squad and there will be only place for one former World Player of the Year in his plans. It will be difficult for Kaká to play as bad as Ronaldinho did last month but he will have to replicate the good understanding with Neymar and Oscar shown last year. Especially if Scolari opts for the same 4-2-3-1 formation against the Italians.

The Geneva friendly could also be the game where Big Phil does a Rafa and uses David Luiz as a midfielder. With Thiago Silva back and Dante having settled in so well, the Chelsea defender might as well be tested as a possible plughole.

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Fernando Duarte

Fernando Duarte is a leading Brazilian sports writer and a go-to expert for international outlets to discuss matters regarding the beautiful game. He’s a contributor to The Guardian newspaper, World Soccer and Champions magazines, as well as a regular pundit for CNN and BBC. Living in the UK since 2001, Fernando is also the European Football Correspondent for Universo On-Line, Brazil’s leading web news portal. He is a childhood CR Flamengo supporter. Fernando holds an MBA in Football Industries awarded by the University of Liverpool and has covered the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, as well as five Uefa Champions League finals. You can find Fernando on twitter @Fernando_Duarte

Fernando Duarte

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