Football - Confederations Cup no jaunt for under pressure Brazil

The much-maligned Confederations Cup will be anything but a meaningless pre-World Cup jaunt for Brazil as they and coach Luiz Felipe Scolari try to win back the confidence of a skeptical media and public.

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World Cup - Scolari seeks to banish 1950 Brazil ghosts
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Luiz Felipe Scolari (Reuters)

With one year to go until they host the World Cup, the five-times world champions find themselves at a low ebb with Scolari already feeling the heat after only seven months in charge.

Brazil are sandwiched between Ghana and Mali at 22nd in the FIFA rankings, a dismal performance even allowing for the intricacies of the calculations, and have not won against a top level side since beating Italy and Argentina in 2009.

No Brazilian player has stood on the podium at the World Player of the Year awards since Kaka in 2007 and the best they could do this time around was a 13th place for Neymar.

Their record since Scolari took over in November following the surprise sacking of Mano Menezes is a thoroughly uninspiring four draws, one defeat and a solitary win, away to lowly Bolivia.

The Brazilians have a young squad which looks very promising in terms of the 2018 World Cup but does not seem to be quite ready to mount a serious challenge next year.

Yet, the media and public expect nothing less than a resounding victory on home soil in 12 months' time. Far from trying to dampen down expectations, Scolari has stoked them up saying that Brazil had a "duty" to win the tournament.

If Brazil are going to win back credibility and gain the support of their notoriously fickle public before then, the Confederations Cup, often seen as nothing more than a collection of friendlies, is going to be their only chance to do it.

A bad performance could leave coach Luiz Felipe Scolari in a vulnerable position given the unpredictable nature of the Brazilian Football Confederation's leadership.

His first stint in charge of Brazil began in 2001 after Emerson Leao was fired following a poor performance at the competition, so he will be more aware of the pitfalls.

Of the players, Neymar, in particular, will be heavily in the spotlight.

Recently signed by Barcelona from Santos, the 21-year-old is seen as Brazil's great hope for the future.

With his ability to run at defenders at speed, embarrass opponents, improvise and finish in style, he is exactly the sort of player Brazilian fans warm to.

But he has often floundered against top European defences, leaving critics wondering whether he has been overhyped.

He also has to shoulder the blame when things go wrong and was the main target of the fans' displeasure when Brazil were jeered off the field in a 2-2 draw at home to Chile in April.

Scolari's critics wonder whether the coach has kept up with the changes in international soccer since leading Brazil to World Cup glory in 2002 and Portugal to the Euro 2004 final.

While Menezes bravely attempted to implant a Spanish-style passing game with a Brazilian touch, Scolari has gone back to the tried and trusted tactics he used 10 years ago.

The man known has "Big Phil" has no time for box-to-box midfielders such as Ramires, or deep-lying playmakers, preferring to plant two tackling specialists in front of his four-man defence.

He also has no room for the so-called false-number nines and has reinstated the out-and-out centre forward, a role which has so far been given to Fred, who has scored in his last five appearances.

Oscar is expected to dictate the midfield, although at 21 there is concern, as with Neymar, that too much responsibility is being placed on his shoulders.

Scolari has made it clear that the players he takes to the Confederations Cup will form the basis of his squad for the World Cup next year.

Ronaldinho and Kaka were both left out, suggesting that their international careers are now over unless a poor display causes Scolari to do an about-turn.

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