SAO PAULO— Kaka is back in the Brazilian national squad for the first time since the 2010 World Cup.
The playmaker was selected Thursday despite being used sparingly by Real Madrid recently. Coach Mano Menezes picked Kaka in a squad for friendlies last year, but the player didn’t join the team because of an injury.
Menezes chose a squad of 23 for the friendlies against Iraq in Sweden on Oct. 11 and versus Japan in Poland on Oct. 16. He made few other changes to the squad he had picked for recent matches against South Africa and China, continuing to mix older players such as Daniel Alves and Thiago Silva with young promising stars like Neymar, Oscar and Lucas.
Kaka’s last game with the national team was Brazil’s elimination by the Netherlands in the quarterfinals of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
On Wednesday, Kaka scored three goals in Real Madrid’s 8-0 win in a friendly against Colombian side Millionarios in Madrid.
Menezes said he had decided to include Kaka before Wednesday’s performance, based on the player’s determination to regain his form and his place as a Real Madrid starter. Menezes also said that Kaka’s experience and successful past with the team played a role.
“We need players as experienced as Kaka is with the national team,” the coach said, noting that the current squad’s average age is only 23. “We think that he will come here and show that he has improved. We know that this season will be key for him so we can start counting on him as a national team player again in the future.”
Menezes said he sees Kaka playing differently than in the past, and plans to start him alongside young playmaker Oscar in at least one of the friendlies in October.
“Players who have been through what Kaka has been through have to reinvent themselves,” the coach said. “They need to find a way to keep playing at a high level. He has been practicing and playing more forward than he used to, and that means we can have him playing together with Oscar in the same team. We’ll see how it works.”
Menezes is desperate to make it work as criticism against him has increased significantly recently.
He has never received full support from fans, but it got worse after he failed to lead Brazil to the gold medal at the London Games. Brazil lost the final to Mexico despite being the clear favorite as one of the few teams playing with most of its top players.
The coach was jeered by local fans when Brazil struggled to a 1-0 win over South Africa in a friendly earlier this month. Menezes was spared from boos when Brazil thrashed China 8-0 a few days later, but he heard from the crowd again in the team’s lackluster 2-1 win over Argentina last week in the Superclassic of the Americas, a home-and-away series in which the South American rivals use players from local clubs.
The crowd loudly chanted “Goodbye, Mano” and “Come back, Felipao,” referring to Luiz Felipe Scolari, who led Brazil to the 2002 World Cup title and has been without a job since he and Brazilian club Palmeiras ended their contract two weeks ago. Scolari has already said he would like to coach a national team in the 2014 World Cup that Brazil will host.
The Estado de S. Paulo newspaper reported recently that Brazilian football federation president Jose Maria Marin has guaranteed that Menezes will stay on the job at least until next year’s Confederations Cup in Brazil.
“I have never asked for guarantees,” Menezes said Thursday. “I know what I need to do to keep my job until the World Cup. We have to be smart about how we measure our success, sometimes the results won’t come with great performances, it’s not always possible for that to happen.”
Goalkeepers: Jefferson (Botafogo), Diego Alves (Valencia), Victor (Atletico Mineiro).
Defenders: Alex Sandro (FC Porto), Marcelo (Real Madrid), Daniel Alves (Barcelona), Adriano (Barcelona), Thiago Silva (Paris Saint-Germain), David Luiz (Chelsea), Dede (Vasco da Gama), Leandro Castan (AS Roma).
Midfielders: Sandro (Tottenham), Lucas (Sao Paulo), Fernando (Gremio), Ramires (Chelsea), Oscar (Chelsea), Paulinho (Corinthians), Giuliano (Dnipro), Thiago Neves (Fluminense), Kaka (Real Madrid).
Forwards: Leandro Damiao (Internacional), Neymar (Santos), Hulk (Zenit).