RIO DE JANEIRO: When Brazil sought in vain to win the 2008 Olympics they looked to Ronaldinho; now he is being offered a chance to make amends for that failure on the greatest stage of all – the World Cup on home soil writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
That was the message delivered by Luiz Felipe Scolari when the man reappointed at the start of December in place of sacked Mano Menezes recalled the Atletico Mineiro veteran for the Wembley friendly against England.
The February 6 game is a prestige friendly which signals the high visibility kickoff to the 150th anniversary year of the Football Association. Pressure on England and manager Roy Hodgson will no less intense than on Scolari who led Brazil to their last World Cup triumph in 2002. Brazil also come to Wembley with their ego bruised by a lowest-ever world ranking of 18th.
Scolari has also recalled QPR goalkeeper Julio Cesar who was Brazil’s regular first-choice between 2007 and 2011. He and Ronaldinho made their last Brazil appearances against Bosnia-Hercegovina in February last year.
Asked what he expected from an attacking partnership of Ronaldinho and young superstar Neymar, Scolari said: “I want what everyone else wants which is that they play the football they are capable of playing. Few can play the game better than them.
“I also want good behaviour.I want them to be responsible, regardless of their age.”
Ronaldinho, 32, has been in and out of the Brazil squad over the last few years and missed the 2010 World Cup as his career went steadily downhill, widely blamed on his partying lifestyle. He reached his peak with Barcelona when he was voted FIFA’s World Player of the Year in 2004 and 2005, then spent three erratic seasons with AC Milan before joining Flamengo at the start of 2011. He walked out on the Rio de Janeiroclub last year and found a new lease of life with Atletico Mineiro.
Scolari has dropped unsettled Real Madrid midfielder Kaka and brought back Lazio midfielder Hernanes and included uncapped Bayern Munich midfielder Dante. The inclusion of strikers Fred and Luis Fabiano has indicated that Scolari, unlike Menezes, had no plans to emulate Spain and play with a ‘false No9.’
The squad features four Premier League players in Julio Cesar plus the Chelsea trio of David Luiz, Ramires and Oscar while the inclusion of Arouca, Paulinho, Ramires, Oscar and Hernanes suggests Scolari plans to follow the example of Menezes and field a more creative midfield than 2010 World Cup coach Dunga.
Goalkeepers: Julio Cesar (QueensParkRangers), Diego Alves (Valencia)
Defenders: Daniel Alves (Barcelona), Adriano (Barcelona), David Luiz (Chelsea), Dante (Bayern Munich), Leandro Castan (AS Roma), Miranda (Atletico de Madrid), Filipe Luis (Atletico de Madrid)
Midfielders: Ramires (Chelsea), Arouca (Santos), Paulinho (Corinthians), Hernanes (Lazio), Oscar (Chelsea)
Forwards: Hulk (Zenit StPetersburg), Neymar (Santos), Ronaldinho (Atletico Mineiro), Lucas (Paris StGermain), Fred (Fluminense), Luis Fabiano (Sao Paulo).
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