Over the course of a decade, the make-up of a national team can change radically as new players emerge and established ones fall from grace. Nowhere is this truer than in Brazil, where the production line of talent appears almost endless. Yet from 1995 until the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™, two members of A Seleção showed that dynasties can endure even the fiercest of competition by making their positions their own.
The men in question are, of course, Cafu and Roberto Carlos who, at right- and left-wingback respectively, played a vital role in what was a golden era for Brazil. Indeed, such was the contribution of these two icons that by the time they ended their international careers, they had become their country's two most-capped players.
However, two and half years after Germany 2006, no clear successors have emerged, despite a plethora of options on both flanks. FIFA.com runs the rule over the main contenders for two positions that remain crucial to the continued success of Brazil.
Cafu's heir apparent
One full-back with a strong claim to that title is Maicon of Inter Milan. The player's speed and attacking verve have been a highlight of recent Brazil games, and his coach Dunga has expressed admiration on numerous occasions. For all of that, the player is facing stiff competition for his place and continues to divide opinion among the fans.
One of his main rivals is Daniel Alves of Spanish giants Barcelona. By playing a pivotal role in the rise of Sevilla a few years back, he became one of the most sought-after talents in European football, before finally signing for the Catalan side in 2008. And while he has yet to replicate his dazzling club form for Brazil, his goal against Argentina in the final of the Copa America 2007 (which Brazil won 3-0) remains a potent reminder of his all-round ability.
A bit more unusual is case of Roma's Cicinho, a starter for Brazil during their successful FIFA Confederations Cup campaign of 2005 and cover for Cafu at Germany 2006. At the time he seemed a certainty for the right-wingback position, but he has not had an international call-up since Dunga's first game in charge, back in August 2006.
Rafinha, meanwhile, put himself in the frame by getting a starting berth ahead of Ilsinho at the Men's Olympic Football Tournament Beijing 2008, his three years' experience with German side Schalke giving him the edge despite being only 23. However, Ilsinho is fast garnering goals and experience at Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk and remains a viable option for Dunga.
The only candidate on this list who plays his football in Brazil is Flamengo's Leo Moura. The 30-year-old, who has already played for five other top clubs in his homeland, is currently enjoying the form of his life. Indeed the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) have named him the best right-back in the national championship for the last two seasons. His first call-up came in January 2008, and he remains a genuine contender for the role.
Filling Roberto Carlos' shoes
On the left side of defence, the competition is fiercer still. Gilberto, currently with English side Tottenham Hotspur, was back-up for Roberto Carlos at Germany 2006 and began the Dunga era in the starting XI. However, in recent months the 31-year-old looks to have slipped down the pecking order behind Kleber and Marcelo.
For his part, Kleber is currently showing with Santos that he has few equals in his position, which explains why the 28-year-old started for Brazil in their last few games of 2008. His steady performances have managed to quieten the clamour that was hitherto building for the inclusion of the younger Marcelo, who looks to have cemented his first-team place at Real Madrid. Only 18 when he was called up for Dunga's first game in charge in 2006, he has still to convince the coach that he is the best man for the job.
Then there is Flamengo defender Juan, who, after three years with limited opportunities in England and a similarly quiet period in Brazil, looks to be finally fulfilling the potential he showed as a graduate of the Sao Paulo youth academy. He was first called into the squad in August 2008, the same year he was voted the best in his position in the Brasileirao, and if the 26-year-old can maintain his current level, calls for his inclusion can only grow.
A little further down the order come Sevilla's Adriano and Maxwell of Inter Milan. The former was a FIFA U-20 World Cup winner in 2003 and figured in Dunga's early squads, only to be overlooked thereafter. Complicating his quest for the No6 jersey is the fact that he currently operates in midfield for his club.
Maxwell, meanwhile, has a lower profile at home having left for Dutch giants Ajax while still a youth player at Cruzeiro in 2001. His main international experience was a run in the U-23 side during Brazil's unsuccessful qualifying campaign for the Men's Olympic Football Tournament Athens 2004, but he is hoping his form in Italy will earn him a long-awaited senior Brazil debut.
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