RIO DE JANEIRO, May 7- Offering no major surprises, Brazil manager Luiz Felipe Scolari on Wednesday unveiled the 23 men he trusts can deliver a sixth World Cup ahead of this year’s event starting June 12 on home soil.
Having already led the most successful nation in the tournament’s history to their fifth title in Japan in 2002, Scolari is now out to lay the ghosts of 1950, when the Selecao lost the trophy match to Uruguay in Rio.
“We have a very good group,” said Scolari, 65, while insisting there must be no premature thinking about the knockout phase.
“We are not interested in who our rival might be in the final. The players know we have to get through the opening phase and that means Croatia (who Brazil face in the first game) are our most important opponent for the moment.”
But he repeated an earlier assertion that, in Brazil, “we are obliged to win”.
Scolari also said it was an honour to be at the helm for a second World Cup, giving him “the greatest satisfaction”.
His squad list contained no major surprises — Napoli defender Henrique landed the final berth — but several veterans missed the cut.
They included Milan forward Robinho (92 caps), along with former world players of the year Ronaldinho (97 caps) and Kaka (87 caps), an echo of his decision to dump Romario more than a decade ago.
Robinho missed out despite facing Chile in a recent friendly.
With Scolari having said for months he knew in his own mind who he wanted to pick, save for one or two exceptions, the focus was on who would provide back-up for a first eleven who saw off world champions Spain in last year’s Confederations Cup warm-up.
For the defensive second string, Paris St Germain’s Maxwell edged out Atletico Madrid’s Filipe Luis, while veteran defender Maicon won out at the expense of Bayern Munich’s Rafinha, even though the latter had played in a March friendly romp against South Africa.
Henrique of Napoli, fresh from lifting the Coppa Italia and formerly under Scolari at Palmeiras, also claimed the final defensive berth and said he was “lost for words” as “it’s a dream to represent your country.”
In the middle, Scolari completed his contingent with Manchester City’s Fernandinho and also Inter Milan’s Hernanes.
– ‘Easier to name squad this time’ –
Scolari had already named as his four captains defensive linchpins Thiago Silva and David Luiz, veteran striker Fred of Fluminense and goalkeeper Julio Cesar, despite Cesar now playing in Major League Soccer with Toronto.
In 2002, Scolari preferred a 3-4-3 line up with Ronaldo at its apex.
But now he and technical coordinator Carlos Alberto Parreira will likely base their hopes on a 4-2-3-1 permutation with the idea that star man Neymar of Barcelona can enjoy a free role.
“It was easier to name the squad this time,” said Scolari, remembering that in 2002 he had fretted about his final selection.
Despite finalizing his second string choices he will almost certainly keep faith with the starting team which beat Spain last year — Cesar – Dani Alves, Luiz, Silva, Marcelo – Luiz Gustavo, Paulinho – Hulk, Oscar, Neymar – Fred.
“The Confederations Cup team is the base,” he noted.
Just four of the players are with Brazilian clubs — reserve keepers Jefferson and Victor and strikers Fred and Jo, the latter who had brief spells in England with Manchester City and Everton.
Scolari could have named 30 players before later trimming them back by June 2.
But the Brazilian Football Confederation had indicated ahead of Wednesday he was happy to name his final squad now in readiness for group games against Croatia, Mexico and Cameroon.
Scolari will now welcome his selection at the end of May to the refurbished Granja Comary training complex outside the rural town of Teresopolis around an hour north of Rio.
Brazil prepared there in 1994 and 2002 — winning the tournament in both years.
He will then oversee a June 3 friendly against Panama at Goiana and a final warm-up against Serbia three days later at the Morumbi stadium in Sao Paulo before the Cup starts at the Corinthians Arena on June 12.
Goalkeepers: Julio Cesar (Toronto FC/CAN), Jefferson (Botafogo), Victor (Atletico Mineiro)
Defenders: Dante (Bayern Munich/GER), David Luiz (Chelsea/ENG), Henrique (Napoli/ITA), Thiago Silva (Paris St Germain/FRA), Daniel Alves (Barcelona/ESP), Maicon (Roma/ITA), Marcelo (Real Madrid/ESP), Maxwell (Paris St Germain/FRA)
Midfielders: Fernandinho (Manchester City/ENG), Hernanes (Inter Milan/ITA), Luiz Gustavo (Wolfsburg/GER), Oscar (Chelsea/ENG), Paulinho (Tottenham/ENG), Ramires (Chelsea/ENG), Willian (Chelsea/ENG)
Strikers: Bernard (Shakhtar Donetsk/UKR), Fred (Fluminense), Hulk (Zenit Saint-Petersburg/RUS), Jo (Atletico Mineiro), Neymar (Barcelona/ESP)