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Scolari must make changes if Brazil are to challenge for World Cup 2014

What Brazil must put right in the next year to challenge for the World Cup

Scolari must make changes if Brazil are to challenge for World Cup 2014

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The Selecao picked up a vital win against France, but there was still evidence to suggest that they must implement changes in order to be considered as contenders next summer

COMMENT
By Tom Webber

A 3-0 win over France last Sunday should have been the perfect springboard for Brazil ahead of their Confederations Cup campaign, but it was a flattering result that merely served to paper over some of the cracks among Luiz Felipe Scolari's World Cup hopefuls.

The 64-year-old led his native country to the ultimate glory in 2002 and his hope is that the upcoming tournament will help him mould his final squad for the big competition next year: "The Confederations Cup will be crucial to seeing how the players react in both positive and negative terms. Based on that, we’ll then start making decisions for the World Cup."

But despite last Sunday's victory there is clearly still work to be done. So what does Scolari need to address in order to take Brazil from their lowest position in the Fifa Rankings since their inception (22nd) to World Cup challengers in the space of a year?
SCOLARI'S POTENTIAL LINE-UPS

Cesar
Alves - Silva - Luiz - Marcelo
Paulinho - Gustavo
Hulk - Oscar - Neymar
Fred

Cesar
Alves - Silva - Luiz - Marcelo
Paulinho - Gustavo - Hernanes
Oscar
Fred - Neymar

Cesar
Alves - Silva - Dante - Marcelo
Paulinho - Luiz
Hulk - Oscar - Neymar
Fred
Cesar
Dante - Silva - Luiz
Alves - P'nho - Gustavo - Marcelo
Oscar
Fred - Neymar

While it may have been a reversal of the scoreline in the vilifying defeat suffered in the 1998 World Cup final, both sides were a far cry from the teams that took to the field inside the Stade de France that summer. Nevertheless, it was a timely victory for the Brazilians. Scolari, who has now won only two of his first seven games in charge, has come under fire from the Brazilian media for his dated tactics, but rather it is his indecision in this area that is currently interrupting the Canarinha's progress.

The 64-year-old has been unable to settle on a favoured formation. It seemed as though he would continue adopting the 4-2-3-1 system that was drafted in under Mano Menezes, but Felipao has begun tinkering.

A rather dull version of 4-4-2 was introduced against England on June 2 with far from inspiring results. Indeed, Scolari was forced to revert from this formation inside of 30 minutes following a disappointing start in the meeting with France. His team improved drastically as a result, displaying far more creativity in the final third, yet this failed to address another issue which lies at the heart of this current team.

The former Chelsea coach appears to be most happy with the deep-lying midfield duo of Luiz Gustavo and Paulinho, who have started both of the Selecao's warm-up friendlies. On paper a Champions League winner and a World Club Cup champion alongside one another look remarkably strong, but the reality is quite the contrary.

While Gustavo provides the brawn and Paulinho the energy, neither are capable of linking defence to attack with their respective passing ranges. The balance is not right. Hernanes has impressed in his two substitute appearances, but bringing him into the side can compromise on defensive stability. It is a position in which Brazil have a wealth of talent, but it is difficult to find an equilibrium with any pairing in the squad.

There are other options with the likes of Sandro, Ramires, Lucas Leiva and Romulo all possibly in contention to return to the fold next summer, but the answer may yet come from the present group. David Luiz has proven himself capable at playing in midfield for Chelsea this season, and he would provide an effective fulcrum to the Selecao. This would also free up room for Dante, another individual with great composure and technique on the ball, to come into the back line without the need for massive personal changes.
BRAZIL'S STRIKING OPTIONS
 PLAYER INTL APPS INTL GOALS
 Fred 23 11
L.Damiao 17 3
 Jo 4 0
 Pato 24 9
 L.Fabiano 45 23

At the other end of the pitch, though, it is the lack of competition that is most worrying. Exiled under Menezes, Fluminense striker Fred has earned his place back at the spearhead of the Brazilian attack. It is a role that Scolari feels his side must utilise, however the available options are sparse.

Leandro Damiao would have provided adequate back-up, but following his injury Felipao's choice of replacement, former Manchester City forward Jo, reveals the limitations and lack of diversity in this position: there is a distinct lack of a 'Plan B'. Fred, himself, has come in for criticism for a perceived lack of movement, but his goal-scoring record under Scolari speaks for itself - four goals in five appearances.

With Neymar also failing to perform in any role under the new coach these issues form a vicious circle. Scolari, who has experimented with three at the back during training sessions, must pick a formation and stick to it. Albeit another change, a 4-3-1-2 would enable Neymar to play in the position he made his own at Santos, whilst also bolstering the midfield and keeping his favoured defence entirely intact. Playing without a recognised striker is also not unheard of in Brazil following Tite's Copa Libertadores-winning exploits with Corinthians last year, though the time-consuming implementation of such a system would likely prove counter-productive.

"The team is coming together. I once read in a magazine that nature does things slowly. We need to keep on working to be competitive and win games," Scolari told Fifa.com. But Brazil are already a side under pressure. With the Confederations Cup their only competitive test until next year's World Cup, the 64-year-old must quickly iron out the kinks to get a true perspective on how his team will fare when the big day arrives.

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