Mano Menezes names Olympic squad
Mano Menezes announced his 18-man squad for the Olympics today. With the exception of Jefferson being dropped, which was expected, the team is exactly the same as the one called up for the recent spate of friendlies.
Here’s the squad:
Goalkeepers: Rafael Cabral (Santos), Neto (Fiorentina)
Defenders: Thiago Silva (AC Milan), Bruno Uvini (São Paulo), Marcelo (Real Madrid), Juan (Inter Milan), Alex Sandro (Porto), Rafael da Silva (Manchester United), Danilo (Porto)
Midfielders: Oscar (Internacional), Paulo Henrique Ganso (Santos), Lucas Moura (São Paulo), Rômulo (Spartak Moscow), Sandro (Tottenham Hotspur)
Strikers: Neymar (Santos), Leandro Damião (Internacional), Alexandre Pato (AC Milan), Hulk (Pato)
The only surprise here is the omission of David Luiz. It had been widely reported that Luiz would be called up as one of the three over-23 players, most likely in place of Hulk. But Mano has decided to role the dice with Juan and Bruno Uvini as his only centerbacks (along with Thiago Silva) despite their disastrous performance against Argentina. (It should be remembered that Juan also put in poor shifts against the USA and Mexico.)
Even with Mano’s sub-par observational skills, there is no way he failed to notice how generally incompetent Juan and Bruno were. So there can only be two reasons for Luiz’s omission:
1) David Luiz is still not fully heathy, meaning Mano didn’t want to risk him (or Chelsea refused to give their permission)
2) Mano decided that it’s worth the trade off to have Hulk in the side against under-aged competition, even if it means being thin at the back.
I wrote several weeks ago that I thought the trade off was indeed worth it. There’s absolutely no reason why Hulk shouldn’t run rampant in the Olympics. Unless Uruguay bring Luis Suarez, there will be no more physically dominant attacker in the entire tournament. Hulk was in generally good form during all four friendlies, though his finishing let him down very badly against Argentina. Plus, the more time Neymar and Hulk get to spend together, the better. More than one observer has detected a certain amount of strain between the two on the pitch. I have no idea what their chemistry is like in the locker room, but when the ball is in play, the two don’t look quite comfortable with each other, often looking reluctant to pass for fear of not getting it back, while the other throws his hands up and visibly complains. This doesn’t mean they can’t end up figuring things out. The Romario-Bebeto relationship was notoriously strained during a good part of the 90’s, and they still formed one of the most lethal attacking partnerships in Brazil’s history. So extra time on the pitch for the two is only a good thing.
That said, my comments about Hulk’s inclusion over David Luiz (or Dede) were written before the Mexico and Argentina matches. While Brazil won’t be going against anyone of the quality of Lionel Messi, this leaves Thiago Silva as the team’s ONLY consistent defender – especially if Danilo starts at rightback. He’ll have the incredibly formidable task of having to shore up a backline that includes the hapless Juan, the in-disciplined Marcelo, and the positionally hapless Danilo. If there’s anyone up to the task, it’s Silva, but you can’t help but wonder if this will be Brazil’s undoing.
In the end, it’ll all come down to whether Brazil’s attacking prowess can overcome their defensive deficiencies. Brazil should go into this tournament as the favorites (though Uruguay, Mexico and Spain also have strong teams), and it’s the most talented side they’ve fielded since the ‘96 mega-squad. Many people discount the Olympics as a serious tournament, and under normal circumstances, I would as well. But this team desperately needs competitive play, and their key players are all young and relatively inexperienced at international level. For this reason, the Olympics are extremely important this year, maybe more so than they’ve ever been.
The only question now is whether Mano has learned to pick form over favoritism when it comes to the starting lineups. If Danilo starts over Rafael, and Ganso starts over Oscar, then he hasn’t. But if he fields those two along with the other USA-Mexico starters, and continues to emphasize pressing in the midfield, then I think we’ll finally be able to declare genuine progress is being made.
But he still has to do something about our ungodly high line.
By the way, the best international team of all time is the 1970 team. But if we’re ranking the best over how much they’ve done over a prolonged period if time (which makes absolutely no sense to me) then the best is the Brazil team that won the ‘58 and ‘62 World Cups. Not only did they bang in goals and dominate their opposition, but they showed the world how to do things with the ball that had NEVER been done before. I don’t believe people will remember much about the Spain team that won the 2010 World Cup or the 2012 Euros. This is not a knock on them – they’re an elite, extremely balanced squad. But they capture heads more than hearts. The golden generation of Brazil was so spectacular, so dominant, and so romantic, that every successive generation has played in their shadow.
If Spanish players are laboring under the same pressure in 2060 as Brazilian players do now, THEN we can talk about them being the greatest side of all time. But not before.
At least, that’s how I see it. I’ll have the Diego article up this weekend.
Comments are closed
MORE SOUTH AMERICA BLOGS
474 articles | 49,372 comments
761 articles | 10,942 comments
956 articles | 3,475 comments
165 articles | 306 comments
38 articles | 64 comments
162 articles | 620 comments
28 articles | 549 comments
20 articles | 14 comments
9 articles | 11 comments
5 articles | 124 comments