Much was expected of Brazil, but so far they are struggling to find their best form. Indeed, before an uninspiring 0-0 with Mexico, Brazil needed help from the referee to make it past Croatia.
Clearly, the start hasn’t been good enough. But what should Scolari do?
End Fred’s misery to save the tournament
The lethargic forward stands out like a sore thumb in the Brazil team. This is not a striker who is going to lead the country to World Cup glory. He lacks work rate, flair and about 20 other attributes. He does, however, go down easy and convince gullible officials into giving penalties.
Fred doesn’t contribute enough to this team. He completed just 8 of 16 attempted passes v Mexico. Against Croatia, he had no shots, no assists, and didn’t even register an ‘attacking run’ in Croatia’s defensive third. He is, frankly, pretty useless.
Who should replace Fred?
Equally useless striker Jo is not the answer, despite what Big Phil might think.
Hulk is one of the more talented and physical attacking options, but he lacks the guile and composure to play as the central striker in this team – his role is as an attacking battering ram to be brought on.
Instead, Scolari should move Neymar into the middle and deploy him in a similar way to Thomas Mueller of Germany, albeit with more creative license to run at defenders. This frees up another attacking midfield/deep lying forward position which could be filled by Willian, Bernard or Hulk.
Will that fix all of Brazil’s problems?
Unlikely. In midfield, Paulinho and Luis Gustavo have hardly set the world alight. If fit, Fernandinho should be brought in to control the central midfield area and free up Paulinho to play further forward. Ramires of Chelsea too could play a bigger part, with the energy to get up and down all game long. Ramires is also comfortable contributing to attacking phases, and can overlap Oscar and Willian neatly after a season together in London.
Who should start against Cameroon?
The match against Cameroon is a chance for Scolari to make a statement ahead of the knock out rounds. Here’s the team he should consider:
4-3-3 becomes 5-4-1 whilst defending
When not in possession, this formation allows Brazil to morph into a 5-4-1 with Fernandinho supporting the centre backs. Paulinho, Ramires, Willian and Oscar have the work rate to play as a defensive midfield four, leaving Neymar to apply additional pressure and be ready to spring a counter attack.
4-3-3 becomes 3-4-3 when in possession
This is where it gets fun.
In possession, Thiago Silva and David Luiz spread wide and accommodate a deep-lying Fernandinho. The Man City midfielder and Luiz can interchange as one or the other carries the ball forward, if space permits, creating a 2-5-3 formation temporarily.
The width of Marcelo and Alves allows Willian and Oscar to tuck inside, swapping positions and running diagonally behind the centre backs. Neymar floats in a free role, seeking possession and one-twos. Paulinho and Ramires hold the central area, breaking wide to support the full backs if necessary, or running beyond Neymar if he drops deep.
Fluidity is the key
This formation makes Brazil much more fluid; without cumbersome target man Fred they are free to interchange positions, with all attacking players comfortable in possession.
For more physical opponents, Hulk can be introduced in place of Willian. To combat stubborn defenses, Oscar can replace Paulinho in centre midfield, freeing up an attacking berth for Hulk or Bernard.
Only time will tell if Scolari is brave enough to drop the failing Fred. The Brazilian fans need to see changes made if this side are to bring the true Brazilian style back in time to win their home World Cup.
Don’t agree? Love Fred? Tell me your Brazil starting XI in the comments below or on Twitter @soccersagacity