Ball Harambee By Bagga Wilks
Neymar has ignited Brazil and his spectacular performance thus far in the Confederation Cup has been instrumental in Brazil getting to the semi-final where they will likely play Uruguay. The other semi-finalists will be Spain and Italy and that sets up a Brazil vs Spain final to conclude the Confederation Cup, the precursor to the World Cup to be held in Brazil in 2014.
As Neymar and his compatriots dazzle on the field, the protest movement of millions of Brazilians is sending a clear message to the government that expenditures on stadiums should not come at the expense of people’s lives. The government inastutely raised the cost of mass transportation and the protest movement has forced a rollback in those price increases. To stem the rising tide, the President of Brazil in an address to the nation has promised greater expenditures on health and education. The government’s belated wakeup call might not be sufficient to stem the mushrooming unrest.
Scolari’s squad has been triumphant playing at home and even though Neymar has come of age in the tournament, the Brazilian World Cup team has a long road to travel to return to the top of the heap in world soccer. The back four of Daniel Alves, Thiago Silva, David Luiz and Marcelo were impregnable until David Luiz in the Italy game had to leave the field injured. Dante, the Bayern Munich central defender does not cover as much ground as David Luiz and the two goals by Italy were scored when he replaced David Luiz.
With Marcelo, Scolari has a dilemma. Marcelo has great offensive skills as a left fall back and combines well with Neymar. But on counter-attacks, he leaves gaping holes in the Brazilian left flank. One of the defensive mid-fielders will have to plug that hole.
Against Italy, Scolari brought in Hermanes for the injured Paulinho. Hernanes has played well for Lazio in Serie A but he is yet to show up while representing the national team. Against Italy he was missing in action. Fred, as a striker, displayed his attributes against Italy but Hulk is yet to impress. Oscar played for Brazil in the 2012 Olympics, then joined Chelsea for the 2012-2013 EPL season and is now playing in the Confederation Cup. He has not been effective as Oscar must be in need of a rest.
Scolari made a grave mistake by not selecting Ramires who like Paulinho can run up and down the pitch until the cows come home. Scolari’s Brazilian national team still needs some tinkering and will be truly tested if they play Spain, the World Cup defenders, in the final of the Confederation Cup.
Neymar and most of the Brazilian squad have come out in support of the widespread demonstrations. The Confederation Cup represents Neymar’s showcasing his talent on the world stage. In the fall, he will join the great Messi in Barcelona. The two together will produce for the years to come highlight reels that will be immortalized on YouTube for the ages.