Expecting to fly
RIO DE JANEIRO - Brazil manager Carlos Alberto Parreira named his World Cup squad on Monday in a ceremony that was professional, carried out with the minimum of fuss, and keenly scrutinised by millions of his countrymen. Exactly like Parreira himself.
The only players slightly surprised to be in the final 23 are goalkeeper Rogerio Ceni, who stands in for Marcos as reserve, Hertha Berlin full back Gilberto, who took the place of favourite Gustavo Nery, and Benfica centre half Cris, who got the nod over FC Cologne's Roque Junior.
Both Marcos and Roque Junior have been out injured and their enforced rest played a fundamental part of Parreira's decision to leave them behind, the experienced coach told hundreds of reporters packed into a Rio hotel.
'Bearing in mind the little time we have to prepare, the physical state of players was clearly a very important factor,' Parreira said. 'The technical commission met last Friday, the doctor, the trainer, Zagallo, Americo and we looked at all aspects and clearly we took into account the players' medical situation.'
Parreira picked 11 of the 23 that won the title in Asia in 2002 and plumped for several others who formed the backbone of a squad that won the Confederations Cup last year and the Copa America a year previously.
The experienced coach chose from more than 80 players he gave caps to since taking the job three-and-a-half years ago and said that although many great players were not included, the 23 he named on Monday will come home with Brazil's sixth World Cup.
'The list is always changing, it's not set, you have to be flexible' Parreira said. 'Many excellent players were left out. But from the moment you name the 23, they become the best players in the country. I don't intend on coming home early. We want to go all the way.'
Parreira knows that he faces a thankless task. He was coach of the side that went to the United States in 1994 having not won the sacred trophy since Pele led the greatest team ever to victory in Mexico a generation before. The weight on his shoulders this time is different, but in a country said to have 180 million managers it is no less heavy.
'In 1994 Brazil hadn't won the World Cup for 24 years, hadn't even been to the final, and so the pressure was enormous,' Parreira said. 'Now the pressure is different. The pressure now is to stay on top. It's different but the same.'
All the more so given Brazil's position as heavy favourite.
'For the first time we come into a World Cup with eight teams that could quite easily be champions,' Parreira said. 'I think Brazil is favourite along with France, England, Argentina, Germany, Italy, the Czech Republic and Holland.'
|“||The World Cup is a treacherous tournament ”|
|— Carlos Alberto Parreira|
'The World Cup is a treacherous tournament, it's seven games and a weaker team can eliminate a stonger team, as we've seen on many occasions. The important thing is that the players are focused. Every opponent has to be give real respect or they can spring a surprise.'
The ones charged with avoiding that outcome are different from previous squads in one significant respect. Only two of those chosen ply their trade in Brazil (Rogerio Ceni, who keeps goal for Sao Paulo, and Ricardinho, who plays with Ceni's rival Corinthians) and for the first time, there are no players from Rio de Janeiro, the traditional hotbed of Brazilian football and home to famous names like Flamengo, Botafogo and Fluminense.
Instead, the squad was dominated by players playing their trade in Spain, Italy, France and Germany. Real Madrid provided four (Cicinho, Roberto Carlos, Robinho and Ronaldo) and AC Milan (Dida, Cafu and Kaka) and Olympique Lyon (Cris, Juninho Pernambucano and Fred) provided three apiece. Barcelona (Ronaldinho Gaucho and Edmilson), Inter Milan (Julio Cesar and Adriano) and Bayern Munich (Ze Robero and Lucio) each sent two.
Parreira has made it clear such squads will become be more and more common.
'Don't be shocked to see all 23 Brazilian players coming from non-Brazilian clubs in future World Cups,' Parreira said. 'It's going to happen because our players are going overseas at an increasingly young age.'