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World Cup 2014

Football: Brazil midfield gives Scolari food for thought

Published on Jun 11, 2014 7:34 AM

TERESOPOLIS, Brazil (AFP) - Brazil have plenty of reasons to be optimistic as they head into the opening game of their bid to finally win the World Cup on home soil.

Technical co-cordinator Carlos Alberto Parreira has said that he is so confident Brazil can win the "hexacampeonato", a sixth World Cup, because "we have the best defence in the world", marshalled by Paris Saint-Germain duo Thiago Silva and David Luiz.

Their presence, along with full-backs Dani Alves and Marcelo, masks any doubts surrounding the condition of goalkeeper Julio Cesar, while at the other end of the field Brazil have the potential superstar of the finals in Neymar.

"When things are going bad, we try to do everything to get the ball to Neymar," said striker Fred, underlining the importance to the Selecao of the 22-year-old Barcelona forward.

But elsewhere coach Luiz Felipe Scolari has some thinking to do in midfield, where questions are being asked about the players who have formed his first-choice trio in that area ever since last year's triumphant Confederations Cup run.

In the 3-0 victory against Spain in the final of that competition, Luiz Gustavo and Paulinho provided the protection to the defence while Oscar was charged with offering the creative spark.

Those three played together in last Friday's 1-0 win against Serbia in Brazil's final warm-up game and most indications from the national team's training camp in Teresopolis, 100km north of Rio de Janeiro, this week have been that Scolari will again field the trio in Thursday's Group A opener against Croatia.

However, Paulinho, of English Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur, was criticised for his performance against Serbia and Oscar has not rediscovered his best form since a poor second half to the club season with Chelsea.

"He was our best player for months, from August to December. He was absolutely fantastic. After that he's been up and down," said Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho recently, and there have been some calls for Oscar to be replaced in the starting line-up by his club colleague Willian.

Concern as to the form of those alongside him means there will be greater emphasis on Luiz Gustavo as Brazil try to deal with the considerable threat posed by a Croatian midfield containing world-class talents in Luka Modric of Real Madrid and Ivan Rakitic of Sevilla.

The 26-year-old of German club Wolfsburg started out as an attacker but has had to drop back to enjoy success at the highest level and will now fulfil a role carried out by the likes of Dunga and Gilberto Silva in great Brazil teams of the recent past.

"I'm not bothered about being recognised. What motivates me is the challenge and trying to reach our objectives," he said at a press conference on Tuesday.

"The coach is always clear about what he wants from me, to focus on defending. We have to be prepared for every team, every opponent.

"It will be my job to closely watch their most creative players. Croatia are a team with great quality," added the former Bayern Munich man, who may not enjoy being in the spotlight but will have a crucial role to play if Brazil are to enjoy a successful World Cup.