As Mano Menezes' side prepare to embark on a new era, Goal.com looks at the four players who can restore the national team's image as the prime entertainers of world football
By KS Leong
It’s been a while since we last saw Brazil waltz past an opponent with rhythmic ease and put on a carnival to leave fans hypnotised.
Ever since the sensational collapse of the fearsome, much-hyped ‘magic quartet’ of Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Adriano and Kaka after the 2006 World Cup, the five-time winners of the tournament have ditched their philosophy of head-spinning football in favour of a more disciplined, cautious approach under Dunga. Four years on, and the Selecao are still trying to rediscover the joga bonito fervour.
New coach Mano Menezes hasn’t quite yet been able to stamp his mark and his team haven’t been performing any better than his predecessor’s. Their last six friendly encounters ended with two defeats, one draw and just three victories, two of which were 2-0 triumphs and the other an uninspired 1-0 win.
But unlike Dunga, the 49-year-old coach has at least opted to hand some of the more flamboyant stars a chance to shine. While Dunga would never give the skinny frames of Alexandre Pato and Neymar a second look in his squad selection, Mano has kept the fans and press at home happy by bringing promising young stars into the senior team, and to the Copa America.
Brimming with youthful exuberance, players like Ganso, Lucas and Neymar are the next generation of Brazilian wizards and magicians. While Ronaldinho, Kaka and Adriano had already achieved superstardom by the 2006 World Cup, this new breed of young sensations are hungry and desperate to prove their worth on the international stage – their first big senior competition – and convince their European suitors to cough up the respective €20 million, €40m, €50m transfer fees demanded by their Brazilian employers. Along with two players who have already bought the T-shirt, AC Milan duo Alexandre Pato and Robinho, there’s a feeling that this is the start of a new exciting era.
Pato is only 21, but it seems like he’s been around forever. There’s a good reason for that, though. He has long suffered under the four-year Dunga regime, making only fleeting appearances and unable to win the trust of his then-national team coach. In just 10 months under Menezes, however, he has tripled his goal tally with the Selecao... granted he only ever scored one under Dunga.
Robinho will be the key attacking figure upfront. Not only is he the second most capped player in Menezes’ Copa America squad, but with 25 goals, he is the only travelling member with a double-digit tally.
The former Real Madrid man, who once thought moving to Manchester City would improve his chances of becoming the best player in the world, will be relied upon heavily to ripple the back of the net. Now wiser and more mature, the 27-year-old will leave the mind-blowing stepovers to the youngsters while he converts the mesmerising build-ups into equally mesmerising finishes.
The player who will now aspire to be the best of the best is Neymar. If the Santos star wishes to overtake Lionel Messi and claim the Fifa Ballon d’Or, his journey starts here and now with the Copa America. A spellbinding tournament will launch him into the next group of elite football megastars as he prepares for life in Europe, perhaps next year.
Ganso, meanwhile, has been entrusted with the famous No. 10 jersey in the Selecao. It’s a heavy burden for the injury prone playmaker, who amazingly has only one cap with the senior team. He will be integral to the side, not only in providing the razzle-dazzle in midfield, but to supply Pato, Neymar and Robinho with enough ammunition.
Is this the magic quartet that will deliver success for Brazil, and deliver it with the style and panache that have been missing for the last half-a-decade?
Brazil’s process of redemption, rebuilding and self-discovery begins with their Copa America opener against Venezuela, their first competitive game exactly one year after they were bundled out of the World Cup by the Netherlands. A good result alone won’t be enough for Menezes’ young Samba boys. The world expects to be entertained. The world expects a carnival from Brazil, in Argentina.Follow KS Leong on