It’s award season in the soccer world. We are entering that time of the World Cup calendar when each side announces the names of the 23 happy campers who will be receiving an original jersey with their name and number on it. It is the moment young men have been waiting for their whole life; or the moment when “profound differences” turn into full on hatred; or the moment when a whole country’s confidence soars/deflates/remains apathetically the same. This is the moment of truth before the moment of truth.
As of this writing only a couple of definitive squad lists have been announced. Honduras, for example, has announced that it will recruit six of their nationals who play in Britain, four in the Premier League and two in the Scottish league. Veteran Noel Valladares will be trying to stop Benzema and Ribery on June 15th.
Australia has also announced their list. Defender Lucas Neil, one of the most active players in the Socceroos with 97 international appearances is not going to the World Cup. Given that Australia face Spain, Netherlands and Chile, he might be better staying at home and not dealing with the jet lag of two Australia-Brazil flights in the same week. Bosnia’s success is predicated on the talents of Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko. Their first appearance as an independent country will be a milestone at every turn, however, their hopes should be reasonable modest: they face off against Argentina, Nigeria and Irán. It is not that Honduras, Australia or Bosnia can’t potentially shock the football world with an unexpected run, but they can’t outshine Brazil. Luis Felipe Scolari’s list is getting all the attention.
Who will be spearheading the offense along with Neymar? Hulk is in, Jô is in and Fred is in too. Behind them Oscar, Hernanes, Paulinho, Ramires and Bernard will command the midfield. No Kaka. No Ronaldinho. No Lucas Moura. No Alexandre Pato. Even more surprising is the absence of Coutinho, who is playing one hell of a game at Liverpool. Scolari is using the core group that beat Spain in the Confederaciones Cup in 2013; of the 23, 17 players played that tournament. It is difficult to argue with a trophy. However, one can be a little wary of Hulk’s form since he is playing in the Russian league –not necessarily the best weekly competition. Without veterans like Kaka in the squad, leadership duties will surely be taken over David Luiz, Thaigo Silva, Neymar and others with enough international mileage in their record to instill order in a side that will have to contend with the pressure brought upon by the highest expectations of a World Cup win in many years.
Fortunately, this is pageant of names, high hopes and dashed dreams will continue in the coming days.