As the end of the domestic season nears, thoughts are already turning to the colourful footballing carnival that is the FIFA World Cup. The hosts of this years spectacle, Brazil, find themselves short of goalscorers.
Football’s World Cup is viewed as the perfect opportunity for the country to showcase its many qualities—from its beautiful scenery, to the impressive economic growth it has seen over the last few years.
However, the build up has been beset by problems and even tragedy along the way.
Anti-government riots, host cities encountering financial difficulties and the dreadful news of construction site workers losing their lives have all focused a very different spotlight on Brazil.
On the pitch, the national side are also facing vexing issues—particularly in attack. Although blessed with the mercurial talents of FC Barcelona’s Neymar, Seleção boss Felipe Scolari has the unenviable task of appointing him a strike partner to try and share the workload. It is the continuation of a problem that has dogged the Brazil side since Ronaldo left the scene in 2006.
According to a report in The Guardian, there is much talk in Brazil about the shortage of world class strikers available to wear the famous yellow shirts. The country’s failure to keep up with changes in modern football is blamed.
However skilful nostalgia might inform us that Brazil traditionally are, they have also been blessed with prolific goalscorers through the years—matching powerful goalscoring instincts to the graceful footballing ballet. Careca, Romario and Ronaldo spring to mind from the 80s, 90s and early 2000s.
Pure goal-poachers are no longer the most important asset to a football team. Mobile strike-forces that are as comfortable picking the ball up in midfield as they are in the penalty area are a la moda.
Spain famously took things another step further in Euro 2012, fielding sides that featured no recognised striker. That may have been a forced issue, with the likes of Fernando Torres low in confidence, but there were enough goalscoring midfielders to ensure that it was effective.
It doesn’t help Brazil that Diego Costa, one man who would definitely have filled the gap for them this summer, has elected to play for Spain. This leaves a deficit of talent with a list of strikers that are either unproven, uninspiring or injury-prone.
Fluminese’s Fred is probably the pick of the bunch. Averaging a goal every other game for his country, he has unfortunately been plagued by injury throughout his career, suffering another long layoff prior to Christmas. If fit, he will probably be Scolari’s first choice to partner Neymar.
Of the others, there is Hulk—although he was deployed more as a winger in last year’s confederations cup. Jo, the former Everton and Manchester City striker is struggling with form and there are calls for the relatively unknown (and rather portly) Walter to make the step up to the squad.
Although only a sideshow to the main event, the golden boot competition will be fierce – as will the betting market. Coral currently have Messi as the favourite at 9/1 followed by Neymar and Ronaldo at 14’s. Manchester City’s Alvaro Negredo is also great value at 25/1 and could be a good outside bet.
Whether Brazil actually have another player that can push for that award remains to be seen.
If Felipe Scolari can solve this puzzle, not only would it ease the burden on Neymar, it could also go some way to helping eradicate the memories of the last time Brazil hosted the World Cup Finals; their ill-fated 1950 campaign.
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