The Brazilian football federation on Monday announced the 23-man party which coach Tite has chosen to take to Russia.
There is no place, however, for Chelsea defender David Luiz, who fell out of favour under Antonio Conte at Stamford Bridge this season.
Tite took the unusual step of naming 15 players guaranteed a place in his squad in an interview back in February. They included Firmino, Willian, Jesus and Fernandinho.
The only one of those 15 not in Monday’s final squad was Dani Alves, who has been ruled out of the tournament with a knee ligament injury.
Brazil will be looking to win the World Cup for a record sixth time in Russia.
They are in a group with Switzerland, Costa Rica and Serbia.
Brazil World Cup squad:
Alisson (Roma), Cassio (Corinthians), Ederson (Manchester City); Danilo (Manchester City), Geromel (Gremio), Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid), Marcelo (Real Madrid), Marquinhos (Paris St Germain), Miranda (Inter Milan), Fagner (Corinthians), Thiago Silva (Paris St Germain); Casemiro (Real Madrid), Fernandinho (Manchester City), Fred (Shakhtar Donetsk), Paulinho (Barcelona), Philippe Coutinho (Barcelona), Renato Augusto (Beijing Guoan), Willian (Chelsea); Douglas Costa (Juventus), Roberto Firmino (Liverpool), Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City), Neymar (Paris St Germain), Taison (Shakhtar Donetsk).
With the World Cup just a month away and many domestic leagues around the globe just coming to a crescendo, football fans are beginning to turn their attention to the most attractive tournament the beautiful game has to offer.
The World Cup kicks off on June 14, with hosts Russia hosting Saudi Arabia. And with coaches scrambling to announce their 23-man squads in the coming days and weeks, some players will already be aware or confident of a place on the plane to Russia.
Others who are perhaps on the periphery will be hoping they’ve done enough this season to warrant selection, while wily old veterans or emerging doe-eyed starlets could be set for a surprise inclusion.
Most of the players going to the finals will hail from Europe’s top leagues. But for some plying their trade in the more obscure footballing territories of the world, they might be hoping the coach plays a wildcard and has been watching their progress from afar.
Some may even not be on their country’s radar – but perhaps should be.
Here, Matt Jones has scoured the globe to bring you five players who’ve enjoyed or are enjoying superb seasons domestically, but are unlikely to receive a call-up due in large part to their obscure geographical location.
Perhaps he already felt his international future was a lost cause having won his last caps in 2015, but his £60 million transfer to Shanghai SIPG still sent ripples throughout world football.
The little magician was one of the few Canarinho players to come out of the last World Cup – held on home soil – with any credit, scoring in the opening 3-1 win over Croatia and grabbing the only goal as they were humiliated 7-1 by champions Germany in the semi-final.
Alongside Thiago Silva, he was one of two Brazilians included in the team of the tournament.
Unlike other players plying their trade in obscure leagues, playing in China doesn’t appear to be why Oscar has been continuously overlooked in the last few years, as Renato Augusto and Diego Tardelli, who play for Beijing Sinobo Guoan and Shandong Luneng Taishan respectively, were selected for March friendlies against Russia and Germany.
Injury ruled Oscar out of Brazil’s squad for the 2015 Copa America but even though he was recalled sporadically throughout the 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign, he last featured in the 3-0 win over Peru in November 2015. Since then, he has neither got off the bench or simply hasn’t been picked in the squad for the last six qualifiers, failing to feature in any of the last 10 squads overall.
This despite excellent form for his club this season. Oscar has scored seven goals in 17 games for Shanghai in 2018 – including three in the AFC Champions League as Vitor Pereira’s men have made it to the last 16.
Despite both player and coach alluding to it, Oscar’s path back into the squad would appear a remote one.
Surprisingly slunk into obscurity when he decided against extending his contract with French giants Marseille in 2015, the 32-year-old has been roaring ever since with Tigres in the Mexican top-flight.
Gignac’s withdrawal from the elite level in Europe was surprising as he enjoyed his best season in 2014/15 at the Stade Velodrome, recording his best goal return as he netted 23 times in all competitions and 21 in Ligue 1 as he finished runner-up to Lyon’s Alexandre Lacazette for the league’s golden boot.
His inclusion in Les Bleus squad would be a surprise, but he has certainly earned his stripes at Tigres this season, where he has notched 18 times in 38 games and added nine assists in all competitions.
His foray down Mexico way has been extremely lucrative. Not only has he surely earned a pretty penny, but he’s been in a rich vein of scoring form during his three seasons too. He’s found the net a total of 77 times in 137 appearances, with tallies of 33 goals (50 games) and 26 goals (49 games) during his maiden two campaigns.
His record at international level is hardly prolific (seven goals in 36 caps) but his personal stats this season give him a strike rate of 47 per cent –which betters figures posted by Anthony Martial (25 per cent), Olivier Giroud (28.5) and Lacazette (44.7), all of whom have an infinitely better chance of being named in Didier Deschamps’ squad.
In an England squad devoid of precious little stardust and a heavy smattering of names likely to cause consternation, why not include a wildcard option who is destined to take the world by storm at some point in the future?
The teenage revelation burst onto the scene at Championship Fulham in 2016/17 with seven goals in 30 appearances. He torched those figures with 15 goals in 48 outings this term to help the club into the Championship play-offs.
The 17-year-old has featured at left-back in his fledgling career but is likely to convert into more of a forward role in the future, along the same career trajectory as Real Madrid’s Welsh wonder Gareth Bale.
He has already become a prominent fixture on the left-hand side of the Cottagers’ attack as this season has progressed, shining brightly as one of the English second tier’s standout stars – his 15 goals is the joint-sixth best tally behind league-leading Derby County striker Matej Vydra’s 21.
He has already earned one England Under-21 cap and is attracting interest from England’s big boys, including Manchester United – although Fulham have slapped an incredible £100million price tag on him in recent days.
Arguably the best player not going to the World Cup who definitely should be. Has been the standout player in Middle East football for a number of years – which essentially seems to be the issue.
South Korea coach Shin Tae-yong is not a fan of picking players playing in the Gulf region, which seems to also end hopes of two UAE-based players getting the nod for this summer’s squad – Al Wahda’s Rim Chang-woo and Emirates Club’s former Al Jazira midfield engine Park Jong-woo, both of whom nevertheless earned recalls for the friendly game against Morocco last October.
And the 26-year-old schemer is on the three-man shortlist once again this year – alongside Xavi and prolific goalscoring teammate Youssef Msakni – having helped dominant Al Duhail to the Qatar Stars League title.
The creative chaos has been sublime since arriving in the Middle East in 2011 – joining Dubail in their previous guise as Lekhwiya (they merged with El Jaish last summer) in 2012.
It will surprise many to know Nam came through the academy at English side Reading in 2007/08 – then a Premier League team – before an underwhelming three-year stay in France with Valenciennes.
He registered a QSL best 14 goals and nine assists in his 25 league appearances during the 2016/17 campaign on his way to last year’s best player award, with his passing accuracy of 91.6 per cent better than Xavi’s 89.2.
This year he has notched 12 league goals in 21 QSL games but failed to feature in either of Shin’s first two games in charge of Korea – the final two World Cup qualifying games against Iran and Uzbekistan.
He has mustered just 548 minutes out of the 1,620 (18 games) the Taeguk Warriors have played throughout Asian qualifying – being left out of the squad in seven of those encounters. So despite his talent he simply doesn’t seem to fit the mould.
Far-fetched you may say for a player who’s never represented Argentina at any level and is unlikely to be on Jorge Sampaoli’s radar to warrant a place in the squad, yet the veteran’s continued copious goalscoring form in the Arabian Gulf League for Al Wahda shouldn’t be ignored.
Tagliabue turned 33 in February but shows no signs of slowing down, having just recorded his most prolific campaign in five seasons with the Al Nahyan Stadium outfit.
The Olivos native netted an incredible 42 goals in 40 outings this season and became the AGL’s leading foreign scorer in the professional era.
The affable Argentine is settled in the Emirates, having been with the Clarets since 2013, and this week signed a two-year contract extension.
His imperious form led to him collecting a second Best Foreign Player award at the AGL Awards earlier this week – his season’s haul including an eye-watering seven hat-tricks, four of those unbelievably coming in his last 10 games.
Add in the emergence of youngsters Cristian Pavon and Lautaro Martinez, who have got people back home excited, and the argument that there is space in this La Albiceleste squad for a wildcard gathers further momentum.
Boca Juniors forward Pavon, 22, has been linked with Arsenal as a possible replacement for fellow South American Alexis Sanchez, and contributed to Sergio Aguero assists on debut against Russia and then in a 4-2 defeat to Nigeria in 2017.
Meanwhile, powerful striker Martinez, 20, whose nickname is El Toro (the Bull), will hope to make a late charge into Sampaoli’s squad following 18 goals in 28 appearances for Racing Club this season.
The case for the young duo, and less so Tagliabue, is strengthened by the fact Gonzalo Higuain has not always delivered in big games, Mauro Icardi failed to impress during recent qualifiers and Paulo Dybala is seen as more of an understudy to Lionel Messi.
As the kick-off of Russia 2018 creeps ever closer it’s time to re-visit some of the songs of previous World Cups.
There has been some stunners and some shockers, official and unofficial, anthems and albums – going back 56 years to when Los Ramblers created the first ever World Cup song for Chile 1962.
Here’s our countdown of the top seven World Cup songs of all time:
7. Wavin’ Flag – K’naan (South Africa 2010 – Unofficial)
Originally the song’s lyrics talked about growing up in war torn Somalia and hoping for freedom.
The lyrics still felt genuine after Coca-Cola chose Wavin’ Flag for their World Cup 2010 campaign – and launched the Somali Canadian poet, rapper, singer, songwriter, and instrumentalist to world wide fame – 90 million Youtube views will that do that for you.
The tune is catchy and doesn’t feel fake (almost).
6. Boom – Anastacia (Japan & Korea 2002)
As great a songstress as American singer Anastacia, who burst onto the pop music scene in the early 2000s, might be she was still an unlikely choice to sing the official World Cup song of Japan/Korea 2002.
Not as catchy as her electronic-soul fusion “I’m outta love” it’s still a fairly pleasing dance number though the link to football seems very tenuous, although the video valiantly tries.
The song was heard a lot during the tournament in Japan and Korea, which was a big step up from the official anthem by Vangelis.
5. Samba e Gol – Bellini (France 1998 unofficial)
Originally titled Samba de Janeiro, this is Samba at its best and a video intercut with some fantastic footage of Brazil’s previous World Cup winning teams (as well as some very strange footage near the end of a random middle age man getting into a car and driving nowhere in particular.)
We live in world where artists modernize older versions of songs. Did it not come across anyone’s mind to recreate this song for the 2014 World Cup?
And much better than the official song – Pitbull’s insipid We Are One (Ole Ola) – although Jennifer Lopez and Claudia Leitte did their best to enliven it.
4. Les Cour des Grands – Youssou N’Dor and Axelle Red (France 1998)
Belgian singer/songwriter and activist Axelle Red joined Senegalese singer, songwriter and composer Youssou N’Dour for this humanitarian hymn, which is uplifting, powerful and surprisnigly edgy for an official tune.
Accompanied by a earthy video which is simultaneously subversive and celebratory – quite an achievement.
3. El Rock del Mundial (The Rock of the World) – Los Ramblers (Chile 1962)
How can you not like a song with the chorus “Goooool, gooool Chile.”
The original FIFA world Cup anthem that started it all – so depending on how you feel about World Cup songs you are either very grateful or very angry at Los Ramblers, the icons of the Chilean new wave.
The song itself sounds like a South American version of Elvis Presley’s “All Shook Up”, although this was written seven years before Presley’s classic perhaps it was the King who was inspired by this early pop-rock chart-topper, which managed to sell around 900,000 copies of this single 45rpm record, a record for the time.
The film clip is pure vintage with highlights of Chile’s previous World cup campaigns.
If only they were all this good.
2. Waka Waka (This time for Africa) – Shakira (South Africa 2010)
The greatest criticism of this catchy number is that it should of course been sung by an African singer.
Instead it was the admittedly fetching Shakira, who hails from Colombia, although she does have a string football connection, being the long time squeeze of Barcelona defender Gerard Pique.
It’s a high energy dance number with a memorable chorus, and at least in the film clip they put the players right where they should be, front and centre – including of course Pique himself – interspersed with an African inspired dance routine.
Shakira’s voice sounds highly treated but the flavor of the music and the celebratory nature of the dance, including some jubilant younger performers, gives it a feel-good vibe that is hard not to succumb to.
The video also has historical footage of many of the greats – Ronaldo, Zidane, Messi, Maradona, Pele, Baggio – who in a moment that almost works, Shakira seems to be dreaming of.
It finishes with the words: “We’re all Africa” and 1.8 billion views of Youtube is not be sneezed at.
Neither were the sales where it topped the charts in 15 countries but could only reach 21 in the UK.
1. World in Motion – New Order (1990 Italy)
“Some of the crowd are on the pitch. They think it’s all over… well it is now!”
The immortal words of Kenneth Wolstenholme’s commentary from the 1966 World Cup final won by England 4-2.
These words start this up-tempo little ditty created by the former members of Joy Division a band who were known as the most depressing ever.
One wonders what Ian Curtis would have thought.
The video is appalling, even by 1989 standards.
Bernard Summer sings his little heart out in an Umbro football jersey, while John Barnes juggles a football behind him, the backdrop a couple of housing commission low-rises on a training ground in
Paul Gascoigne, Peter Beardsley, Des Walker and Steve McMahon also make an appearance, mumb;ling along to the video wondering what they are doing.
The mid-song wrap break delivered by John Barnes is the best thing in it – and shows maybe the Liverpool legend missed his true calling. It contains the phrase: “We ain’t no hooligans, this ain’t no football song, Three lions on my chest, I know we can’t go wrong”
They did of course go wrong in the semi-finals – as Gascoigne shed his famous tears.
But the real question is who is more embarrassed – band member Gillian Gilbert during the filming or Chris Waddle looking back on his haircut.
The song was re-released for the 2002 World Cup, when David Beckham was meant to re-record the wrap but un/fortunately that never happened.
The song went to No1 in the UK but could only manage No5 in the USA.