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May 15, 2013

Brazil's squad better suited for 2018, not 2014

Host country Brazil has taken a surprisingly youthful approach to its 23-man squad for June's Confederations Cup.

For a start, manager Luiz Felipe Scolari didn't call upon Kaka or Ronaldinho, former FIFA Players of the Year, leaving 21-year-old star Neymar without any veteran guidance in attack.

In doing so, Scolari amplified the talent gap between Kaka and Neymar's footballing generations. Sought by Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, it's clear at Neymar is Brazil's most important player right now. He's making a mark on the Selecao at a much younger age than players such as Romario, Zico, Socrates, Falcao, Cafu and Rivaldo did. Only Pele and Ronaldo can offer a blueprint for Neymar, but even they worked with older players as part of squads that mixed youth and raw talent with more experienced stars.

With doubts lingering over the veteran pair, Scolari and manager-coordinator Carlos Alberto Parreira -- both World Cup-winning managers with Brazil -- have opted to omit the kinds of players that can guide future stars like Lucas and Oscar.

For all Scolari and Parreira's success with the Selecao, glory has been scarce for both outside of Brazil. Parreira was South Africa's coach for the 2010 World Cup, but the club became the first host not be make it out of the first round. "Felipao," meanwhile, took Palmeiras to a Copa Libertadores title in 1999 but got the historic club relegated in 2012.

Reporters have been also keen to focus on the coaches' familiarity with Brazil's style over the last 10 years. It was during this period that Scolari led Portugal to the semifinals of the 2006 World Cup, but was also fired at Chelsea after only eight months. Can they shape these rising stars into a coherent squad?

The promise is there for Brazil to win a World Cup -- but that may not reach its full potential until 2018.

Paulo Vinicius Coelho ("PVC") is a veteran Brazilian sports journalist who has covered World Cups in 1994, 1998, 2002 and 2006 as well as five Champions League finals. He is a soccer specialist, ESPN commentator in Brazil and columnist for Folha de S. Paulo, a popular Brazilian newspaper. Paulo has also written six books including Bola Fora, a history of the exodus of Brazilian players.

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