Brazil’s friendly victories over Colombia and Ecuador in the US over the past week might not quite have restored the nation’s battered football pride but the matches have at least provided hope that the Selecao are stitching together the wounds inflicted by a 1-7 FIFA World Cup semi-final defeat by Germany in July. Six of the players that started for the Selecao in their 1-0 victory over Ecuador in New Jersey Tuesday did not feature under former coach Luiz Felipe Scolari during the World Cup. The player who arguably most impressed during the friendlies was unheralded Atletico Madrid centre-back Miranda. The 30-year-old, named as a reserve for Brazil’s World Cup squad, slotted in seamlessly in the absence of injured former captain Thiago Silva. While Silva appears certain to reclaim his spot at the heart of Brazil’s defence when he regains fitness, Miranda’s form has cast serious doubt over the place of David Luiz, who missed Tuesday’s match with a knee injury. The new Paris Saint-Germain signing was widely lambasted for his shoddy defending and cavalier forays into attack during Brazil’s capitulation to Germany in Belo Horizonte. Miranda is everything Luiz is not. Schooled under the grit-before-glamour tutelage of Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone, his composure and clever positioning were crucial to the Colchoneros’ La Liga triumph last season. Where Luiz is prone to wandering aimlessly upfield, Miranda is content to mark his territory and distribute efficiently to teammates. Even his hair – cropped and unobtrusive – is the antithesis of Luiz’s flowing locks. The style would seem a perfect fit for new Brazil coach Dunga. During his first spell in charge of the Selecao from 2006-2010, Dunga eschewed Brazil’s traditional attacking instincts, often fielding three holding midfielders ahead of a four-man defence. In an interview published on Brazil’s football confederation website Wednesday, Miranda showed his philosophy reflected that of the 1994 World Cup-winning captain. “The main role of a centre-back is to know how to position yourself and anticipate the play,” Miranda said. “A central defender needs to be efficient. He has to put the team first and can’t seek the spotlight. The simpler you keep your game the better you will play.” Dunga will select his next Brazil squad later this month, ahead of friendlies against Argentina in Beijing Oct 11 and Japan in Singapore three days later.
While a fit Luiz is unlikely to be left out of Brazil’s squad, a starting berth is not so assured.