No sooner had Brazil made sure of their place at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ than coach Dunga was asked whether he had decided which players he was taking to the tournament. His unequivocal response should have several squad members packing their passport already.
"Obviously the ones who are getting called up on a regular basis have a head-start," he explained. "They’ve already taken a big step. Let’s face it, if I can’t get a nucleus together after three years of work, then I should get the sack."
It is no surprise that the former midfield general should put his faith in the men who have taken Brazil to successive triumphs at the Copa America 2007, FIFA Confederations Cup South Africa 2009, and regional qualifying for South Africa 2010.
Yet, the second part of his answer gave hope to many candidates on the fringes of the squad, players who are still nursing hopes of boarding the plane to the world finals. “We’ll be looking at everyone right up until the last day,” he promised. “The national team is open to everyone and we’re going to keep trying people out.”
Dunga proved as good as his word two weeks ago, when he announced his squad for the friendlies against England in Doha on Saturday and Oman in Muscat on Tuesday. Only seven months remain before the big kick-off and, yet, after already calling up over 80 players in the course of his three-year reign, the Brazil coach is keen to keep his options open.
With the Brasileirao reaching its conclusion, Dunga has called on Europe-based players only, among them a quartet who had yet to appear on one of his squad lists: Hulk, Carlos Eduardo, Fabio Aurelio and Michel Bastos. And the new number of new faces rose to five on Monday when Palermo midfielder Fabio Simplicio got the call after Ramires picked up an injury.
As these latest inclusions show, Dunga is keeping an open mind as he prepares for Brazil’s assault on their sixth world title. The USA 1994 winner is well aware, however, that some talented players will have to fall by the wayside in the months to come. “Some great players with the ability to be on the list are going to end up missing out. That’s inevitable,” he declared.
But, for the time being at least, the likes of Carlos Eduardo, Fabio Aurelio, Hulk and Michel Bastos can entertain realistic hopes of earning Dunga’s approval. FIFA.com reveals more about the quartet of new boys.
The words: “At Gremio I was a second forward playing out on the left, but now I have the chance to play in the hole or even out wide. I’ve learned a lot about tactics in Europe and that has really helped my career.”
Though it perhaps came as a surprise to some, the selection of Carlos Eduardo is a typical Dunga move. The Hoffenheim player has just graduated from Brazil’s youth teams, having played at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Canada 2007, and is holding down a place in a club that is one of Europe’s emerging forces. The tactical expertise he is acquiring has made him a versatile performer, which could prove crucial when the national coach finalises his 23-man list.
The words: “The fact Dunga has tried out so many players means the door is still open. I know this call-up is only the first step but I want to make a good impression so I can stay in with a chance.”
While his ability has never been in doubt, the biggest problems Fabio Aurelio has faced in his bid to succeed Roberto Carlos have been his injury woes, which stunted his development at Valencia and then Liverpool. Having almost dropped out of the reckoning altogether, he surged back into contention and the media spotlight on the back of some fine performances with the Reds last season, and finally makes his return to national duty after a nine-year absence.
The words: “I’m going to try and make the most of my opportunities. If I can do a job for the Seleção in these games and keep on playing well for Porto, I’m sure I’ll be at the World Cup.”
The appearance of Hulk’s name on the list caused many in Brazil to say, 'Who?' After all, the Paraiba-born striker has spent virtually his entire career outside his homeland, leaving Vitoria for Japan at the age of 19. Three years in the east were followed by a move to Porto in 2008. Thanks to his pace, a powerful left foot and his strength, which led to him being nicknamed after the famous comic-book character, he has earned cult status and the chance to introduce himself to the fans back home by pulling on the famous canary-yellow shirt.
The words: “I’ve only come in at the end of the process but if Dunga has opened the doors now, it means there are still spaces available. I went to France as a fullback and then became a midfielder, though I can also play on the wing or up front. I adapt very quickly.”
Despite enjoying excellent seasons in the Brazilian league in 2005 and 2006, Bastos never got a look-in with A Seleção due to their abundance of riches. Nevertheless, he caught the eye of Lille’s scouts and after moving to the Ligue 1 club he impressed in a more advanced midfield role, scoring 14 goals in the 2008/09 season. That haul aroused the interest of perennial league champions Lyon, where he has now become a key performer, acquiring the versatility that Dunga likes his players to possess.