Brazil fields young Confed Cup squad
SAO PAULO -- As Brazil faces a big test for the Confederations Cup on and off the field, coach Luiz Felipe Scolari has filled the squad with promising youngsters Neymar, Oscar and Lucas with the hopes of contending on the world stage.
"We are starting now, but we are still the Brazilian national team," Scolari said. "And as the national team, we need support for those who are wearing the Brazilian jersey on the field, those who are trying to give us the fourth Confederations Cup title."
Brazil is trying to show that it can build stadiums and complete building projects in time for the 2014 World Cup, and the national team will try to show that it has the potential to contend for its sixth world title.
To do that, Scolari is fielding a young team for the warm-up tournament, hoping to see what they can do under the intense spotlight of Brazilian public opinion and preparing them for the big stage in 2014.
He has also chosen many players from Brazilian teams, hoping they will attract support from home fans who have been loudly critical of the national team after its struggles since the coach's return. Brazil has fallen to a FIFA world ranking of 22nd in the most recent survey.
Despite delays and cost overruns, all six stadiums built for the Confederations Cup are expected to be ready when Brazil faces Japan in the opener in Brasilia on Saturday. It remains unclear, though, if the national team will be up to the task on the field.
Scolari led Brazil to the 2002 World Cup title and had the widespread backing of the Brazilian people when he returned to the national team in December, but that support quickly faded as Brazil began to struggle under his command.
The team was loudly jeered and booed by nearly 50,000 home fans after a 2-2 draw in a friendly against Chile in April.
Brazil has won the last two Confederations Cups, in 2005 in Germany and in 2009 in South Africa. It also won the 1997 tournament in Saudi Arabia. The five-time world champions haven't won a significant title since the 2009 tournament.
Brazil's team will include 11 players from local clubs as Scolari seems to be repeating the winning formula of the 2002 squad that thrived in South Korea and Japan, when 13 members played in domestic leagues. Since then, the "Selecao" has had only a handful of local players in most tournaments.
The former Portugal and Chelsea coach recognizes that the greater objective is to prepare the team to win the World Cup, so he added plenty of youngsters to the Confederations Cup squad. The only players from the 2010 World Cup squad are Julio Cesar, Daniel Alves and Thiago Silva.
"The majority of the players we picked haven't played an official competition with Brazil," Scolari said. "Before they can play in a tournament like the World Cup, I need to observe them playing in bigger matches. We lose by not having more veterans in the squad, but we gain by having their youth and desire to succeed."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.