KEIR RADNEDGE in MANAUS: Fred cannot say ‘Right’ and that is problem for Brazil.
Fluminense’s centre-forward was the surprise five-goal hero of Confederations Cup, much to the satisfaction of coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, who likes a traditional centre-forward playing in and around the penalty box.
Fred – quick, mobile and combative – draws attention away from Neymar which also suits Brazil nicely. Trouble is, Fred has only just returned to full training after six months in which, every time a comeback from injury was heralded he broke down again.
Last June Fred starred as Brazil beat a fragile Spain 3-0 in the Confed Cup final. No-one pretended that this was much more than a shadow of the Spain which has sandwiched World Cup success between two Euro triumphs. But it was an important blow to enhance Brazilian morale.
Hence a concern growing in Brazil that the long-lasting storm over the terms of Neymar’s transfer to Barcelona last year may eventually overlap into the countries’ World Cup rivalry.
Hence the overriding importance for Scolari of welcoming back a fit Fred. Indeed, it was partly because Fred is not fit that Scolari decided to go without domestic players altogether in his squad for a friendly against South Africa in Johannesburg on March 5.
If one was not available then there was no cause to bring in any others who will have played only a handful of early-season matches by then. Striking options include Jo and Leandro Damiao but Scolari has shown little enthusiasm for either.
Brazilian football takes a pride in its centre-forwards. Ademir in the 1940s and early 1950s, Evaristo de Macedo, Vava, Mazzola (Altafini in Italy), Tostao, Roberto Dinamite, Careca all the way down to Ronaldo (the original).
Scolari, though he will not admit it, may regret having allowed Diego Costa to slip through the nationality trapdoor and join forces with . . . Spain.
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