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Feast that became famine casts doubt over Brazil future

SAO PAULO, July 13 – One of the words being bandied about to explain Brazil’s disastrous end to the World Cup is “entressafra”, the Portuguese word that means “between harvests”.

A Brazil fan reacts after they lost their third-place playoff against the Netherlands.
A Brazil fan reacts after they lost their third-place playoff against the Netherlands.

While tactical naivety, emotional immaturity, injuries and suspensions played a part in the 7-1 mauling by Germany and the 3-0 loss to the Netherlands, former players and pundits are providing a more basic explanation – a dearth of good players.

“I’ve enjoyed the games I’ve seen in the World Cup, but the skill level is very low,” Rivelino said on Diego Maradona’s TV show last week.

“In Argentina you still have a number 10, Messi, but Brazil doesn’t. Maybe we are going through a difficult phase, an ‘entressafra’. I hope things improve.”

Resolving that issue will be the main task for the coach expected to replace Luiz Felipe Scolari.

Of the 23 players who were in Brazil’s World Cup squad, only a handful have a realistic chance of making it to Russia in 2018 – if Brazil qualify, which is not guaranteed.

Players like Fred, Jo, Paulinho, Fernandinho and Dani Alves rarely looked good enough for the five-times world champions and may never play for Brazil again. Fred has announced his retirement from international football.

Dante, Maxwell, Maicon, Fernandinho and Hernanes will all be at least 33 and are unlikely to be part of future plans.

Two of the three goalkeepers will be 35 and first choice Julio Cesar will be 39, not unmanageable for a keeper but still old enough to make his continued presence unlikely.

The future team will be based around forward Neymar, the one indisputably world-class player in the squad.

If there is any cause for optimism it is in midfield, where Oscar and Willian are 23 and 25, respectively. Bernard is still only 21 and has time to improve, especially if he leaves the wilderness of the Ukraine where he plays his club football.

If they can overcome the trauma of this tournament they still have a chance to shine.

The rebuilding will begin with four friendlies before Christmas.

Main targets

The main targets, however, will be the Copa America next year in Chile and the qualifiers for Russia, which begin in 2016.

The coach will have an added pressure – or opportunity – of guiding the Under-23 team in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016, a major event in the Brazilian football calendar because it is the only international title they have not won.

A few players who narrowly missed out on selection this year will hope to be given a chance.

Young Paris St Germain winger Lucas, Liverpool’s Phillipe Coutinho and Lucas Piavon, the up-and-coming Chelsea striker who spent last season on loan at Vitesse Arnhem, are among those who could be drafted in for friendlies against Ecuador and Colombia in the United States in September.

Liverpool’s Lucas Leiva, who missed much of last season through injury, is still only 27, and Marquinhos, Paris St Germain’s talented 20-year old defender, is definitely one for the future.

As the repetition of the word “entressafra” highlights, there are few outstanding young players coming through the ranks at Brazil’s top clubs.

Gabriel Barbosa of Santos and Luciano of Corinthians show promise in front of goal and Lucas Silva of Cruzeiro is shaping up to be an influential midfielder in a good club side.

Many others show promise but the problem for Brazil is helping them maintain that early spark. In the past, there were so many players that a few always made it through the ranks.

In an “entressafra” that feast is now a famine.