Out in the cold - Thiago Silva faces struggle to save Brazil career

Heralded as one of the finest central defenders in the professional game, could the PSG man already have played his last game for his country under Dunga?

GOALCOMMENT   By Nara Franco in Rio de Janeiro   
Last year Thiago Silva led Brazil into their first World Cup in home soil for over half a century, having long been heralded as the finest central defender in the game. A little over a year later, the 30-year-old is now left wondering if he will ever get the chance to represent his country again.

On Thursday the Paris Saint-Germain star was left out of Dunga’s Brazil squad for the second time in succession , having been omitted from the squad for September’s Chevrolet Brasil Global Tour victories over Costa Rica and USA .

Corinthians defender Gil earned a surprise recall to the 23-man group that will contest October’s World Cup qualifiers with Chile and Venezuela, ostensibly coming in as fourth-choice centre-back behind Miranda and Thiago Silva’s PSG club-mates David Luiz and Marquinhos.

Thiago Silva remains an undisputed starter at his club, forming a fine partnership with Luiz, with whom he was partnered at the World Cup after leading Brazil to Confederations Cup glory in 2013.

Prior to being tasked with leading the Selecao to their sixth world title, it was Thiago Silva who was plastered across the front pages of magazine and newspapers, christened the “sheriff” of Luiz Felipe Scolari’s potential history-makers.

But by the time the tournament came around, he was singled out as a symbol of the overly emotional tone that would eventually derail the Selecao as anxiety got the better of him in the quarter-final against Chile in scenes that sat in stark contrast to the cool and composed demeanour that made him such an imperious defender.

Having refused to take a penalty in the shootout, he sat away from the group, perched atop a ball all alone on the sidelines, rocking back and forth in deep prayer. As Neymar hit the winning kick that day, Thiago Silva collapsed – an image a watching Dunga found deeply concerning. In pictures that became emblematic of Brazil’s failings, the current boss emphatically expressed his opinion that the world was witnessing conduct unbefitting of a leader.

But having been suspended on the fateful evening the Selecao suffered a shock 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat to Germany, Thiago Silva was still tipped to form the heart of Dunga’s back-four.

Unfortunately for Thiago Silva, however, injury struck as the new boss took the reins, leaving the former Milan man unavailable for the first post-World Cup friendlies. In his absence, Neymar was handed the armband. Thiago Silva publically expressed his disappointment and an anger at not being consulted, which further ostracised himself from Dunga.

“I have not spoken to anyone, there was no conversation. And that's what leaves me upset,” Thiago Silva said. “At this point, I cannot tell you I'm happy because I'm not. It’s a sad moment, but it’s a part of football. I will try to do my job to help the group as best I can.”

As he continued his rehabilitation back in France, Miranda came into the back four and starred, helping Dunga’s side to four consecutive clean sheets.

Thiago Silva didn’t return to the squad until November 2014 when he made a squad restricted to European-based players, but he was forced to watch on from the bench as Brazil saw off Turkey. He appeared a few days later against Switzerland but only after Miranda suffered a first-half injury. He then started against France and Chile due to an injury to David Luiz but arrived at the Copa America expected to play a bit-part role.

Much to the shock of the Brazilian press, however, a mix-up in the defence in Brazil’s opener with Peru saw David Luiz dropped for the rest of the tournament. Thiago Silva returned and scored in Brazil’s third group game, a 2-1 victory over Venezuela. He was back in from the cold. And suddenly appeared set to stay, his international resurrection complete.

But with Brazil leading Paraguay by a single goal in the quarter-final, Thiago Silva blotted his copy book for what could be the last time under Dunga: leaping with team-mate Dani Alves and Paraguay’s Roque Santa Cruz, a stray arm swatted the ball away. Paraguay were awarded a penalty. Derlis Gonzalez converted the kick and, come dawn, Brazil were out. So too was Thiago Silva.

“I didn’t even know the ball had hit my hand," he said.

"I only saw what had happened when I saw videos later at the hotel. That is why my face was one of such astonishment, I did not understand what the referee had seen. The referee didn’t even know if it was my hand or Dani’s.”

Thiago Silva has not been called back since. And his decision to once again vent his frustrations publicly, this time via cryptic messages on social media, will not have impressed authoritarian Dunga. The current Brazil coach values discipline, commitment and team spirit above all else. At his press conference on Thursday Thiago Silva’s omission wasn’t even raised by local media. Dunga simply said, "More experienced players will be called depending on the outcome."

It may already be too late for Thiago Silva. Come the end of October he would have appeared in just seven of Dunga's 18 games in charge of Brazil. But he undoubtedly has the talent to play a major role in Brazil’s quest for a place at Russia 2018 and, fully expected to continue his fine form for his club side, it will likely be the way he conducts himself away from the pitch that will decide whether or not this great defender’s international future has come to a premature end.