Spotlight on the main contenders: Brazil
Countdown to South Africa: 97 days to go
Saturday 06 March 2010
Dunga is not everyone's idea of a Brazilian coach but he could emulate Mario Zagallo and Franz Beckenbauer in winning the World Cup as a player and manager.
Under his stewardship Brazil are more "European", pressing opponents high up the pitch and working on their set-pieces, but they are not boring. There is a focus on counter-attacks, but the ball is passed and carried forward, not launched.
Dunga's selection problems are at left-back, where Michel Bastos is being fast-tracked in the absence of alternatives, and right-midfield, where there are number of prosaic contenders. More enviable is the need to choose between Maicon, of Internazionale, and Barça's Dani Alves as the rampaging right-back.
Real problems? There is a danger that the team are over-reliant on the continued fitness of Kaka as playmaker, Luis Fabiano at centre-forward, goalkeeper Julio Cesar and centre-half Lucio, with their understudies unconvincing. The decision to omit Ronaldinho and Alexandre Pato, which Dunga suggested on Tuesday is a final one, may yet backfire. It certainly seems an odd Brazilian squad which has room for Julio Baptista and Kleberson, but not Ronaldinho.
Dunga is trying to keep expectations under control. In a tongue-in-cheek reference to criticism of the club form of Kaka, Robinho and others, he said: "I am surprised we are favourites, everyone tells me all the Brazilians playing in Europe are playing badly." However, Brazil are confident after triumphs in the Copa America and Confederations Cup and he added: "We will prove ourselves at the World Cup."
World Ranking: 2
World Cup Group: G (with Ivory Coast, Portugal, North Korea)
When they could meet England? SF
Odds: 9-2 (SportingBet)
Pedigree: Five-time winners.
Last five results: Bolivia (a) 1-2, Venezuela (h) 0-0, England (n) 1-0, Oman (a) 2-0, Rep Ireland (n) 2-0
Pre-finals fixtures: None arranged
One to watch: Nilmar (Villarreal)
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