After falling to Belgium in the quarterfinals of the World Cup, Brazil are set to begin a new four-year rebuilding cycle under continuing head coach Tite.
First up in that cycle will be friendlies against the United States and El Salvador, building to next summer’s Copa América, hosted in Brazil. Unlike after the Mineiraço of 2014, Brazil probably don’t have to throw it all out and start from scratch, so there are plenty of familiar names, plus a few unfamiliar ones in the squad for these first couple games.
Willian didn’t have the best of World Cups and he remains not first-choice at Chelsea, but he gets the call anyway. David Luiz does not. The full squad is as follows:
GOALKEEPERS: Alisson (Liverpool), Hugo (Flamengo), Neto (Valencia);
FULL BACKS: Filipe Luís (Atlético Madrid), Alex Sandro (Juventus), Fagner (Corinthians), Fabinho (Liverpool)
CENTRE BACKS: Dedé (Cruzeiro), Felipe (Porto), Marquinhos (Paris Saint-Germain), Thiago Silva (Paris Saint-Germain)
MIDFIELDERS: Andreas Pereira (Manchester United), Arthur (Barcelona), Casemiro (Real Madrid), Fred (Manchester United), Lucas Paquetá (Flamengo), Coutinho (Barcelona), Renato Augusto (Beijing Guoan)
ATTACKERS: Douglas Costa (Juventus), Everton (Grêmio), Roberto Firmino (Liverpool), Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain), Pedro (Fluminense), Willian (Chelsea)
Tite has apparently seen the light, and has corrected a few mistakes he made in his squad selection for the World Cup. Fabinho and Alex Sandro, for example, were glaring absences from the Seleção in Russia; now they get their chance.
In midfield, the biggest news are Arthur and Andreas Pereira. The former has been heralded as a potential heir to Andrés Iniesta at Barcelona: great intelligence combined with excellent play-making abilities. Meanwhile, Belgium-born Pereira had just decided to commit himself to the Brazilian national team despite representing Belgium at youth level from 2010 to 2015. The Manchester United youngster did not shatter records in his two seasons on loan at Spanish sides Granada and Valencia, but he did enough to impress Tite and José Mourinho, who’s given him a chance to stay with the United first-team this season.
But the Brazil squad’s limelight will be fall on two attacking players from Brazil: Flamengo’s Lucas Paquetá and Fluminense’s Pedro.
20-year-old Paquetá is a very interesting prospect, able to play as central midfielder and further up the pitch. In the Brazilian League, he has quickly turned into a “complete player”. He offers a lot going forward with his dribbling, finishing and passing skills, trying to string one-twos and other moves that get supporters out of their seats. But he does not forget about his defensive responsibilities either; he is a good tackler and wins most of his aerial challenges.
As for 21-year-old Pedro, he is the centre-forward Brazil were craving for throughout the World Cup. He is big, strong and quite agile for a 1.85m (6ft 1in) player. Overall, he has a playing style quite similar to Diego Costa — he does not constrain himself to the penalty area as he tries to beat defenders with great hold-up play, dribbling and technique. Most importantly, he has a good nose for goal. His aerial ability might be as bad as Diego’s however, and he also lacks the former Chelsea man’s nasty edge, which may be an advantage or a disadvantage, depending on your point of view.
Brazil’s squad is a strong one for these upcoming friendlies, aside from questionable backups at goalkeeper. (Hugo is an U20 Flamengo goalkeeper who has never played for the first-team, while Neto’s biggest career feat was being back-up Gianluigi Buffon at Juventus for two seasons). Most importantly, Willian should get a good chance to get himself back nto Brazilians’ good graces.