Just 24 days have passed since Brazil were knocked out of the FIFA World Cup™ by the Netherlands. In that short space of time A Seleção have undergone something of a revolution, with Dunga having been replaced in the hot-seat by Mano Menezes, who has picked 11 uncapped players for next month's friendly against USA in New Jersey. Featuring in his first squad are just four men who competed at South Africa 2010, as clear a sign as any that the new coach is intent on giving everyone a chance to stake their claim.
“We are not excluding any of the players who took part in the World Cup,” said Menezes in a press conference after announcing his maiden 24-man party. “You have to understand that most of them need to take a rest.”
The quartet in question are Dani Alves, Thiago Silva, Ramires and Robinho. And while Menezes is sure to be calling on more of the South Africa 2010 survivors in the months to come, the fact is that with the Men's Olympic Football Tournament London 2012 and the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ on the horizon, a process of transition is inevitable.
“We’re not ruling anyone out but in football, like life, nothing stays the same,” explained the former Corinthians coach. “Other players have to be prepared to come in and take their place.”
Whatever process of change Menezes is about to embark on, he has promised it will be “slow and gradual”. That said, with an average age of 23.1 years, his squad for the USA game is markedly younger than the one that travelled to South Africa, which was a mature 28.7 years. The 'veteran' of the group is the 26-year-old Robinho, who will be expected to provide some guidance for the ten new faces: goalkeepers Jefferson, Renan and Victor, defenders Rever and David Luiz, wingback Rafael, midfielders Jucilei, Ganso and Ederson, and forwards Neymar and Andre. Seven of that ten are also young enough to qualify for the team aiming for glory at the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament in London in two years time.
“I have three main objectives to work on: the 2011 Copa America, the Olympics and the 2014 World Cup, which is obviously the big one as far as we’re concerned,” said Menezes, before underlining the value of Brazil winning a football gold medal for the first time: “London 2012 is a very important target for us too though.”
Three of the players who are sure to feature in his plans for London are Andre, Ganso and Neymar, who have been dubbed Os Meninos da Vila (The Vila Kids). The latest revelations of Brazilian football, the trio have provided lots of goals and entertainment with Santos this year en route to the Campeonato Paulista title and the Copa do Brasil final, the first leg of which will take place tonight against Vitoria.
Talking to FIFA.com back in May, Andre, who has since earned a move to Ukrainian giants Dinamo Kiev, spoke of his hopes of one day running out for the national side: “There’s no doubt that my dream is to make A Seleção and the World Cup here in Brazil. I’ve got four years of hard work ahead of me to achieve that and I want to see everyone together – me, Neymar and Ganso – making history in 2014. Who knows, we could even be doing our dance routines at the World Cup. Can you imagine that?”
Whatever selection choices the new coach makes in the months and years to come, he looks set to dispense with the holding midfield role so beloved of his immediate predecessor. None of the five midfielders named in his squad for the USA game – Lucas, Jucilei, Hernanes, Ramires and Sandro – can be regarded as exclusively defensive players, a change in focus that Menezes explained during his unveiling.
“I like 4-2-3-1, a formation that we saw a lot of at the World Cup,” he said. “I used it with Gremio in 2006, when we had a great Brazilian championship, and I like it because it allows you to pick two ball-playing midfielders, which is essential in today’s game. Football is cyclical and this is probably the road we need to take in the next few years.”
It remains to be seen whether Menezes and his team will stick to that road, and whether the promised process of renewal becomes a reality, but for the time being at least, Brazil fans are dreaming of a brighter future.