Brazil coach Dorival's biggest questions after team call-up

There was an instant social media response when new Brazil coach Dorival Junior called up his first squad on Friday. A number of people looked at the list of centre-backs and headed straight to the keyboard to write that Dorival "called up the wrong Murilo."

There had been considerable speculation that there would be a place for Murillo (with two Is) after his splendid start with Nottingham Forest. Instead Dorival went for 26-year-old Murilo (just the one l) of Palmeiras, the reigning Brazilian champions -- a solid player but not a name that had appeared in the preview pieces.

Then again, Dorival had promised to include more Brazil-based players in his squad. The younger generation has grown accustomed to watching Brazilian stars in action for European clubs. Older folk -- and Dorival is 61 -- find it harder to accept, and frequently clamour for more local names in the national squad. Dorival has been playing to this constituency. It might have been something of a stretch, but he found room for seven domestically based players in his squad of 26 to face England and Spain later this month.

Here we unpack some of the major talking points from the squad announcement ahead of Copa América this summer.

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Can Dorival balance home-based and global players?

Along with seven players from Brazil, there were also 10 players from the Premier League, and in his news conference Dorival admitted it is undeniable that his biggest stars play abroad. His main task now is getting those players onside.

Brazil's new boss is an easy figure to underestimate -- an awkward public speaker, his rambling phrases can make him sound like a low-level bureaucrat talking about production statistics. But his lack of high-profile ego is an asset. He is usually popular with his players, and has a solid track record of building sides constructed around the talent at his disposal.

He has more than 40 years experience as player and coach -- but it is limited to Brazil. At issue now is whether he can create a connection with players who have lived other realities. Key man Vinícius Júnior, for example, seemed very keen for Carlo Ancelotti to take charge of Brazil. Can Dorival win him over?

A possible complication

A coach can lose credibility if he is seen as being too loyal to personal favourites, especially if the rest of the group are not convinced that said favourites are there on merit. There were obviously going to be surprises in Dorival's first squad, and it is striking how many of them have a strong link with the coach.

Last year, Dorival was with Sao Paulo. There was a shock call-up for Rafael, their 34-year-old keeper, and few had foreseen a place for Pablo Maia, the club's promising central midfielder. Another one in the squad for the first time is Lucas Beraldo, who left Sao Paulo at the start of the year to join Paris Saint-Germain, and who has effectively beaten Nottingham Forest's Murillo to a slot as a left-sided centre-back.

Maybe the biggest surprise of all is left back Ayrton Lucas, who worked with Dorival in a short but successful spell at Flamengo in 2022. Not only is Lucas out of form, he was a disaster a year ago in a friendly against Senegal. It is hard to understand his inclusion -- though much easier to comprehend that space has been found for another of Dorival's former Flamengo players, Wolves central midfielder João Gomes. Indeed, the inclusion of Gomes -- who played a key role balancing out Dorival's Flamengo -- gives a hint toward the shape of the side likely to take the field at Wembley.

Which Brazil side will we see?

The meetings with England and Spain are only friendlies, but these are important occasions for Brazil, who have few opportunities to meet European opposition -- and who keep losing to the Europeans in the quarterfinals of the World Cup. Moreover, the team are coming off a run of three straight defeats to South American sides in World Cup qualification.

Dorival says that he has a starting XI in his head. It will surely include wingers -- he has plenty of them, and he might even be mulling over a way to fit Vinicius and Gabriel Martinelli into the same lineup. So there will be wingers, and at least one attacking fullback -- creating an obvious need for balance.

Last time out against Argentina, previous coach Fernando Diniz picked just two in midfield. This will clearly not be the case against England. The inclusion of Casemiro has surprised some, but he heads a collection of midfielders either adept at covering space or full of lung power. Dorival has given himself plenty of options to tighten up the game in the centre of the pitch.

A welcome return and a shock absence

Last year, just before Fernando Diniz was going to announce his first Brazil squad, the news broke that Lucas Paquetá was involved in a betting scandal. There was a hurried delay while his name was removed from the list and a replacement found. Paqueta sat out all six games of the Diniz reign, but he is in action on a weekly basis for West Ham, meaning that there should surely be no impediment to his inclusion. And so he returns.

But there is no place for recent Barcelona signing Vitor Roque, the barrel-chested centre-forward who is seen as a hope in what has been something of a problem position. Dorival has limited himself to Richarlison and teenage sensation Endrick. He could surely have left one of his six central midfielders (plus Paqueta and Andreas Pereira, who can both operate there) to find room for an extra central striker.

But these are early days. After these friendlies, there is a Copa América coming up, and then World Cup qualification will resume with Brazil down in an uncomfortable sixth place. Roque and others will have their chance. But for now, the Barcelona striker will be watching from the sidelines as Brazil seek to get back on track with Dorival Junior.