After the emphatic victory in the Confederations Cup last summer, Brazil’s midfield pairing of both Luis Gustavo and Paulinho seemed to be developing an excellent understanding. One that would certainly lead Brazil into their first World Cup on home soil in 64 years.
A summer transfer to White Hart Lane from Brazil gave Paulinho the opportunity to showcase his talent on the biggest of stages, European football. A chance to further increase the likelihood of holding down his somewhat assured place in Brazil’s starting eleven.
However , twelve months down the line, all has not gone according to plan for the ex-Corinthians star. A turbulent season has seen him in and out of the Spurs side in recent months, with many questioning his role in the Selecao, and whether a player in greater form warrants a place instead. Perhaps a year ago, even Luis Felipe Scolari himself did not anticipate having to make such a choice. After all, Paulinho’s role for Brazil is somewhat unique. A midfielder with exceptional stamina, the task of both acting as a defensive anchor as well as supporting the front four in attack. A physical presence at the heart of the everything, both tactically aware and comfortable with the ball at his feet. Surely he had no rival?
Manchester City’s £28 million capture of Fernandinho during the summer may have put the cat, well and truly, back among the pigeons. Evidently, eyebrows were raised when the club acquired the services of a player who had spent the previous 8 seasons in Ukraine, having not appeared for his country since 2011/2012. Surely, they had got the wrong Brazilian?
However, Fernandinho seemed to give the side a new dimension, the spark that they seemed to be missing the previous campaign. Extremely mobile and superb defensively he filled the gap they had been so desperate to fill, and did so to great effect. Ultimately , Fernandinho gave his team-mates the licence to express themselves, with both David Silva and Yaya Toure excelling in more advanced, creative roles.
Given his chance to impress in Brazil’s latest friendly in Johannesburg’s’ the Man City midfielder did just that. Brazil romped to a 5-0 win, with Fernandinho adding the icing on the cake, his first international goal, an excellent strike from 25 yards. Further proof to his manager that he really is ready for the biggest of occasions.
With less than two months before the start of the World Cup, as the European season draws to an end, there was certainly a debate for the inclusion of Fernandinho over his out of form Premier League counterpart. When manager Scolari was faced with this question, he simply replied “Its their teams who fail to use them better” For Felipao it seems, Paulinho’s poor form is Tottenham’s problem, not his.
One man who is most certainly assured of his place, both in the squad, and the first eleven is Wolfsburg defensive midfielder Luiz Gustavo. The pivotal anchor in the Selecao’s midfield duo, Gustavo has become an ever present, vital figure in Scolari’s formidable outfit. Blessed with a tall, athletic frame and the ability to read the game, Gustavo is the enforcer, a player not afraid to put his foot in or do the dirty work. A role which has not been fully filled for Brazil since the excellence of Gilberto Silva back in 2002.
With Scolari opting to play his favoured 4-2-3-1, Paulinho and Gustavo are the likely pairing that will kickoff the tournament in Sao Paulo on the 12th June. But Fernandinho has more than earned his place in the squad. A poor performance from Paulinho may well leave the door wide open, a chance Fernandinho is eagerly awaiting.
Ramires – With the Chelsea man a definite to make the squad it is more than likely that the former Cruzeiro star will have to settle for a place on the bench. If Felipao does however, decide to revert at any point to the more defensive 4-3-3, then Ramires is likely to feature.
Hernanes – A potentially surprise selection from Felipao. Don’t expect the Inter Milan star to be playing much football. Apart from the odd cameo appareance here and there, later on in games.
This piece was written by Cameron Maher. Follow him on Twitter @CamMaher95