Dunga named his 23-man squad for the Copa America today. The big news is that Seleção stalwart Oscar has been left out, ostensibly to recover from an injury picked up in training.
Regardless of the reason, I’m glad Oscar has been excluded. Not because I don’t want him on the team (I do), but because he desperately needs a rest after playing in three straight summer tournaments. He should be ready and raring to go come the qualifying campaign…and if he’s not, then at least it will put to bed the whole “Oscar is tired” theory (which I’ve espoused myself) when trying to explain his less-than-inspiring form.
Just as importantly, this opens the door for Coutinho to establish a regular place for himself in the team. Not that I expect Dunga to make it easy for him. There are a few friendlies between now and the start of the tournament, and you can bet that Dunga will experiment with Everton Ribeiro in the starting XI. You could also see him move Robert Firmino to a deeper position, restoring Diego Tardelli to the false 9 role. Hell, it wouldn’t shock me if he played around with a Neymar-Willian-Robinho triumvirate.
That said, Oscar’s spot is now open, and Coutinho is both the best equipped and the most in-form alternative. It will be fascinating to see if he takes this chance.
Otherwise, Dunga’s selection is mostly as expected. Ex-Brasileirao stars-turned-strangers-in-a-strange-land Diego Tardelli and Everton Ribeiro are back in the fold. Neither is particularly inspiring to me, but both played well enough in 2014 to deserve a recall, especially Diego. Despite a middling performance against France, Marcelo has been selected at left-back instead of Alex Sandro. But the only name on the list who might be surprised at his own call-up is Casemiro. He’s a welcome addition. As a midfielder capable of playing in either half, both with the ball and without it, Casemiro is a good example of the kind of balanced, two-way player that myself and others called for after the World Cup. He’s had a good season with Porto and looks set to return to Real Madrid in the fall.
As for the exclusions? Lucas Moura and Felipe Anderson are the biggest names, but they were never really in the picture. Leaving Lucas out is probably defensible given that he’s been battling injuries, but Felipe Anderson should have gotten a look-in months ago. Along with Neymar and Coutinho, he’s been Brazil’s most exciting attacking player in Europe in 2015. That said, he’s still not exactly setting the world on fire, and he’ll have plenty of chances after this. I find it difficult to muster up too much emotion about it.
For the rest, I personally would have liked to see Rafinha, Fred (of Shakhtar), Alex Sandro and Gabriel Paulista, but none of these are egregious exclusions. All in all, it’s a pretty solid selection, and certainly more talented than the 2007 and 2011 editions. In the end though, the real question is less “who plays” and more “how does Dunga tell them to play.” Dunga, in his press conferences, has stated several times that he is committed to concepts like “space” and “movement” (talk dirty to me, Dunga!) but until we see those concepts actually applied, on the field, in a tournament, against high-quality opposition, Dunga could name Garrincha’s ghost as team captain for all I care.
Talk is cheap. Let’s see deeds, not words.
For the most part, I think Dunga has made a positive impact on the team. But we can’t pretend the Chile match didn’t happen, or the first 20 minutes against Argentina. Or at least, I can’t pretend.
Here is 2015 Copa America squad in full:
Keepers: Jefferson, Diego Alves, Marcelo Grohe
LB: Filipe Luis, Marcelo
CB: Thiago Silva, Miranda, Marquinhos, David Luiz
RB: Danilo, Fabinho
DM/CM: Luis Gustavo, Fernandinho, Casemiro, Elias
AM: Philippe Coutinho, Everton Ribeiro
Attackers: Neymar, Roberto Firmino, Diego Tardelli, Douglas Costa, Willian, Robinho