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Neymar, Richarlison, Raphinha and the Brazil forwards battling for World Cup berths

10:03 AM WAT 27/01/2022
Brazil World Cup striker selection GFX
Selecao coach Tite will have a huge amount of attacking talent to choose from when he sits down to pick his squad for Qatar 2022

With the World Cup now less than 10 months away, Brazil are already facing a welcome selection dilemma.

Tite's team, who have already clinched qualification to Qatar, possess a wealth of talent in attack, and that enviable depth is one of the reasons why they have managed to negotiate the CONMEBOL qualifiers with such ease, as several players have stepped up to cover the absences of established forward stars like Neymar, Richarlison and Roberto Firmino over the past months.

Once the main event comes around, however, Tite will only be able to take 23 players on the plane, and there are bound to be some disappointed players, particularly up front, where competition for places is fiercest.

GOAL takes a look at the main contenders for Brazil's World Cup plans, with some almost assured of their spot and others racing against time to make their case as the Selecao seek their sixth win in football's biggest, most prestigious tournament.

  • Neymar Brazil Goal50 SLIDELIST

    Neymar

    With 116 caps and 70 goals, Neymar remains Brazil's golden boy at the age of 29 and is central to their hopes of winning a first World Cup since 2002.

    Injury may have interrupted his rhythm somewhat in the second half of 2021, but when in peak condition, the Paris Saint-Germain superstar is one of the most dangerous forwards on the planet, as he underlined at the 2021 Copa America, where he was the best player in the entire competition not named Lionel Messi.

    If he can regain fitness and form, Neymar can make all the difference, and he will be one of the first names on Tite's squad list for Qatar 2022.

    VERDICT: On the plane

  • 20220121_Vinicius

    Vinicius Junior

    Real Madrid's young star has been one of the revelations of the past year, finally combining his explosive presence on the ball with a reliable final product to make himself indispensable to Carlo Ancelotti's starting 11.

    Vinicius has netted 12 Liga goals this season, making him Brazil's highest scorer in any of Europe's top five leagues. He is still waiting for that form to pass over to the international game, where he is yet to open his account, but a dangerous performance against Argentina in November did much to raise his stock.

    January's internationals against Ecuador and Paraguay, with the likes of Neymar, Roberto Firmino and Richarlison all missing, give the 21-year-old a golden chance to make his case to Tite and prove why he deserves to get the nod at the World Cup.

    VERDICT: In the lounge (but banging on the gate door)

  • Richarlison Brazil Olympics

    Richarlison

    Like Neymar, Richarlison is another player who has struggled so far this season, hindered by injury and, of course, the crisis that has ravaged Everton under the recently sacked Rafa Benitez.

    Nevertheless, the Toffees star is a real asset for Brazil, able to line up on both wings or down the middle, and equally adept at creating and scoring goals.

    The last time Richarlison featured for the Selecao was in their victorious Olympic Games campaign back in August, but he should be back in Tite's plans for the main event, although he cannot afford to rest on his laurels given the multitude of contenders jostling just behind him.

    VERDICT: On the plane (for now)

  • Gabriel Jesus Brazil

    Gabriel Jesus

    Gabriel Jesus has long been one of Tite's favourites, making his senior debut in the coach's first game in charge at the age of 19 back in 2016 and going on to pick up more than 50 caps in the intervening years.

    Like the rest of the Selecao's stars, however, the Manchester City man cannot afford to take his foot off the accelerator.

    As well as long-time centre-forward rival Firmino, Jesus must now also fend off Gabriel Barbosa and Atletico Madrid's Matheus Cunha, while his rotten international form – he last scored for Brazil in the 2019 Copa America final – means he needs a big year to make his place secure.

    VERDICT: In danger of missing his flight

  • Roberto Firmino Brazil 2019-20

    Robert Firmino

    The Liverpool star's versatility is perhaps his most valuable asset when it comes to making the cut for Qatar.

    In the past 12 months, Firmino has turned up in all of the four forward positions in Tite's favoured 4-2-3-1 set-up, making him a vital utility player for the exertions of a World Cup, which is just as well, as on form alone, he would be would be struggling.

    A series of muscle injuries have kept him inactive at Anfield in 2021-22 and he has not appeared for Brazil since being hooked at half-time as they went down to Argentina in the Copa America final.

    VERDICT: Too useful to leave at home

  • Raphinha Brazil GFX

    Raphinha

    One of the hallmarks of an action-packed, bittersweet 2021 for Brazil was inspiration coming from unlikely sources.

    That was certainly the case for Raphinha, who became Leeds' first-ever Selecao cap in October and made an instant impact, pitching in with two assists and two goals in his first three appearances to see Brazil through a punishing World Cup qualifying triple-header.

    For Leeds, too, the 25-year-old has been holding down the fort admirably in difficult circumstances, and he is a real game-changer with the ball at feet.

    Raphinha has a good chance of making it to Qatar, but for that to happen he will need to be just as impressive during these next nine months as he was throughout 2021.

    VERDICT: On stand-by

  • Antony Venezuela Brasil Eliminatórias 07 10 2021

    Antony

    The young Ajax star is in a similar position to that of Raphinha.

    Both wingers burst onto the international scene in 2021 with a series of fine performances, but given the restrictions on selection in Qatar, only one of the pair – at most – is likely to make the trip.

    Antony, nevertheless, has a great chance to convince Tite he deserves to be on the plane.

    Ajax are still in the Champions League, while there is also the possibility of him securing a move to one of Europe's elite this summer if he continues to impress.

    VERDICT: In the lounge

  • Gabigol comemora, Flamengo x Bahia, Brasileirão, 11112021

    Gabriel Barbosa

    Playing outside Europe is not a deal-breaker for Tite when it comes to choosing his Brazil team, as Gabigol can attest.

    The Flamengo star's prodigious scoring record since cutting short a disappointing spell at Inter has pushed him into contention, and he started five consecutive qualifiers in 2021 before sitting out the November window in order to focus on the Rio side's ultimately unsuccessful Copa Libertadores quest.

    Gabigol will be a regular feature of Tite's team this year, too, and as long as Flamengo continue to battle for honours and he keeps scoring goals, he has an excellent chance of inclusion.

    VERDICT: One foot on the plane

  • Matheus Cunha Atletico Madrid vs Valencia La Liga 2021-22

    Matheus Cunha

    Matheus Cunha had a 2021 to remember.

    A relative unknown in his native Brazil at the start of the year, the forward finished it as an Olympic gold medallist, scoring three goals along the way, and also clinched a lucrative move from Hertha to Atletico Madrid.

    Cunha has been going from strength to strength in Spain and is now mounting a strong challenge to Luis Suarez for Atletico's starting centre-forward spot.

    That meteoric rise may have come just too late to clinch him a spot in Qatar but, at 22, he is undoubtedly one to watch.

    VERDICT: Sat at home - but not for long

  • Willian Coutinho Brazil Ecuador Eliminatorias 2018 31082017

    Philippe Coutinho

    Of all the players on this list, Coutinho perhaps has the most work to do in order to reclaim lost ground.

    The new Aston Villa signing paid the price for his disappointing Barcelona stint and won the last of his 64 caps back in October 2020.

    Coutinho did return to the bench in November, and if he can build on his positive start at Villa, he might just have an outside chance of getting back into contention.

    Time is against him, though.

    VERDICT: Still in with a shot

  • Everton Ribeiro Brasil Peru Eliminatórias 2022 09 09 2021

    Everton Ribeiro

    He may not enjoy global recognition compared to others in the Brazil squad, but Everton Ribeiro's big-game mentality is beyond any reproach.

    A Libertadores winner with Flamengo, the versatile playmaker has been one of the keys to the Rio club's recent dominance and rarely disappoints with his elegant attacking play.

    Able to play across the forward line and further back in midfield, Tite has made heavy use of Everton in recent months and might just turn to the 32-year-old as a solid utility pick when it is time to choose his 23 competitors for Qatar.

    VERDICT: In the lounge

  • Everton Brazil 2019

    Everton

    Just over two years ago, Everton was the new sensation of Brazilian football. The then-Gremio star enjoyed a fantastic Copa America as the Selecao took the trophy and the world appeared to be at his feet.

    Since then, however, the Benfica winger has struggled to kick on, and after a disappointing 2021 Copa, he dropped out of Tite's squads altogether in the second half of the year.

    There is still time for an upturn but, given the sheer volume of talent ahead of him in the pecking order, Everton seems unlikely to make the cut.

    VERDICT: Sat at home

  • Hulk Atlético-MG 2021

    Hulk

    The veteran forward was a surprise inclusion in Tite's squad back in September, breaking back into the national team thanks to his excellent performances for Atletico Mineiro.

    Hulk remains a fearsome competitor, but barring an injury crisis or some other unforeseen catastrophe, the 35-year-old is unlikely to go to a second World Cup.

    VERDICT: Sat at home

  • Rodrygo Real Madrid

    Rodrygo

    In almost any national team on the planet, Rodrygo would be considered a near-automatic choice.

    This is Brazil, though, and despite representing one of the world's most prestigious clubs, the Real Madrid winger is struggling to make an impact with the Selecao.

    Rodrygo has just three caps for his country, with the last coming in 2020.

    Unless he experiences a breakthrough as impressive as club-mate Vinicius Jr in the coming months, Qatar will be nothing less than a distant dream for the 21-year-old.

    VERDICT: Sat at home

  • Arthur Cabral Basel

    Arthur Cabral

    The Basel striker has forced his way into contention by sheer volume of goals, smashing 27 in 31 games to date in 2021-22 and earning his first call-up to the Brazil set-up, although he is still waiting for his debut.

    Cabral is nevertheless a firmly outside bet for the World Cup, but his mooted move to Serie A with Fiorentina would put him firmly in the spotlight and he is a striker we should be hearing much more from in the years to come.

    VERDICT: Sat at home