4 players with a point to prove for Brazil in Neymar's absence
For many nations the first phase of preparation for Russia begins this weekend. Not Brazil. The Selecao commenced immediately after beating Paraguay 3-0 one year ago. Tite’s team intensifies plans with warm-up games against Russia and Germany.
To manage both contests the former Juventus tactician extended invitations to no less than 25 players. The side will still be without talismanic Paris Saint-Germain forward Neymar and dependable Atletico Madrid defender Felipe Luis who miss out due to injury. Their grief turned a blessing for others to stake a claim for a spot on the Samba flight.
Here are four unheralded stars who could gatecrash Tite’s squad.
The long wait continues for Neto. Twenty-two times the Valencia goalkeeper has been called up for national team duties yet never deemed trustworthy to start. Even in inconsequential test matches he was a spectator.
Neto has been brilliant this term for Los Che with eight clean sheets in 28 appearances but compared to preferred pair Alisson and Ederson that’s mediocre. The Roma goaltender is unbeaten in 14. His Manchester City rival hasn't conceded in half his domestic outings. With such impressive numbers and barring any enforced withdrawal Neto will only be in Russia to cheer from the dugout.
Similar to Neto, Anderson Talisca isn’t new to the national fold. He’s had three shots but failed to grab hold. His first was nearly four years ago when just 21 and at Benfica. Since then a slump in form coupled with the extraordinary rise of others has kept him from prominence.
The forward is enjoying a timely renaissance since joining Besiktas on loan in 2016. Capable of powerful medium-range shots, Talisca is equally adept at crossing. He flaunts excellent physical conditioning that allows him to move through blocks of defenders often comprising four or five players. Starting from midfield, he has hit the net 14 times while lacing three others for his teammates.
Will this Willian be first time lucky? A world champion for Brazil at the Under-20 level, the 26-year-old forward has made the senior squad for the first time in his career. He's desperate to make up for lost time. Unpopular in his homeland Jose is becoming a household name in Europe, Spain in particular, after three gruelling years.
Jose has been phenomenal for Real Sociedad with 18 strikes in all competition. In the league, he is averaging a goal every 158 minutes, a rate bettered by just seven players. His composure, aerial threat, and killer instinct may ultimately win him a spot in the final squad.
Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder Fred is back from the international wilderness. The dynamic 25-year-old stayed away after testing positive to the banned substance hydrochlorothiazide in a sample taken during Copa America 2015. Before then he had featured six times for the record World champions.
Transformed and in-form Fred won’t make such mistakes this time. With all the hype surrounding him an assured display should be enough to fuel his trip to Russia. It isn't as though he has far to go from his Ukrainian base.