As ever, the eternal exponents of artistic football arrive in Paris with a rich palette of talent all set to delight and excite. But with some European and South American championships still going on, it will be a pastiche of seasoned campaigners and promising youngsters who attempt to bring yet another trophy back to Brazil.
With the stretched-out season in Europe and the final stages of the Copa Libertadores in South America combining to deprive France 2003 of the likes of Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Roberto Carlos and next best thing Robinho, coach Carlos Alberto Parreira will use the tournament to blood the latest batch of new Brazilian talent. Parreira sees the FIFA Confederations Cup France 2003 as the perfect opportunity to separate the wheat from the chaff in the run up to the CONMEBOL and the Olympic Football Tournament Athens 2004 qualifiers.
Strong, skilful and quick, 23-year-old Corinthians star Kleber would appear to be the natural successor to Roberto Carlos. Like all Brazilian full backs he enjoys nothing more than a havoc-wreaking jaunt upfield. His club-mate Gil, though still a tender 22, is a deft passer and lethal finisher.
Other newcomers expected to wear the famous canarinho jersey for the first time in an official FIFA competition are: Gilberto (Gremio de Porto Alegre), Maurinho (Cruzeiro), Luis Fabiano (São Paulo), Julio César (Flamengo), Adriano De Souza, Ilan (Atlético Paranaense), Fabio (Vasco Da Gama) and Dudu (Vitoria).
Seven players who missed out on the Asian trip last year will be on duty in Paris this summer: Emerson (AS Roma) is back; captain and midfield talisman throughout the last South American qualifiers, he suffered a shoulder injury just days before his side’s first game in Korea/Japan and has not played for his country since. The sublimely talented Alex (Cruzeiro de Belo Horizonte) also returns to the fold. He took part in the FIFA Confederations Cup Mexico 1999, the Olympic Football Tournament Sydney 2000 and the last FIFA World Cup™ qualifiers. Powerful frontman Adriano (Parma) is recalled too; he played in the last CONMEBOL qualifiers and led his country’s attack at the FIFA World Youth Championship Argentina 2001.
Edu Dracena (Cruzeiro) and Eduardo Costa (Girondins de Bordeaux) also played in the 2001 tournament in Argentina while the latter can boast appearances in the FIFA U-17 World Championship New Zealand 1999 and appearances in the qualifiers for Korea/Japan. Fabio Luciano (Corinthians) and Juan (Bayer Leverkusen) return to the ranks to provide strength in the air after playing in the qualifiers but then sitting out last summer’s celebrations.
Of the 23 players called up, six took part in the Asian adventure a year ago, with only Ronaldinho (PSG) and Lúcio (Bayer Leverkusen) holding down places in the starting eleven. The toast of Lombardy following his penalty-saving antics in the UEFA Champions League final, Dida (AC Milan) will be looking to erase the favourable impression made by Marcos in Korea/Japan.
Two other players will also be attempting to stake a claim to a regular Seleção spot while in France: Belletti (Villarreal), who has thus far enjoyed very little playing time as understudy to Cafú, and Kléberson (Atlético Paranaense), seeking a role for himself in midfield. Ricardinho (São Paulo) also made the trip to Korea/Japan, but only as a last-minute replacement for the injured Emerson.