Ronaldinho to learn World Cup fate on Tuesday
RIO DE JANEIRO, (Reuters) -- Former World Player of the Year Ronaldinho will learn on Tuesday whether or not his impressive season with AC Milan will be enough to earn him a place at his third World Cup.
Brazilians will also discover whether coach Dunga is prepared to gamble on Santos youngsters Neymar and Paulo Henrique Ganso, who have this year shown the sort of flair which was missing in goalless World Cup qualifying draws at home to Bolivia, Colombia and Venezuela.
Dunga is required only to name a provisional 30-man squad on Tuesday but the gruff former World Cup captain has decided to name his definitive 23 to avoid the speculation which would inevitably follow over who gets dropped.
"I'm ready to go to the World Cup," Ronaldinho, who has scored 13 Serie A goals this season and created another 17, said in a television interview at the weekend. "I know that I'm just one of Dunga's options, but I'm ready."
The ever-grinning Ronaldinho has not played for Brazil since the World Cup qualifier against Peru in April last year. At the time, he was barely figuring for his club and, after some lacklustre performances for his country, Dunga took the difficult step of dropping him.
Ronaldinho also disappointed at the Beijing Olympics the year before when he was included as an overage player in the under-23 competition, which saw Brazil lose 3-0 to arch-rivals Argentina in the semi-finals.
Dunga, who has made hard work and commitment his watch-words since taking over after the 2006 World Cup, appeared less than enthusiastic when commenting on Ronaldinho's prospects after a 2-0 win over Ireland in a friendly in March.
"He's had his chance for Brazil, now it's up to the coaching staff to make the decision," said the former World Cup captain.
Ronaldinho was one of Brazil's biggest let-downs in 2006, when the five-times champions were knocked out in the quarter-finals by France, although many felt he was played out of position.
"Last time we spoke, he told me that he wasn't going to pick me and then put me on the bench, and he told me to get in shape," said Ronaldinho, FIFA's Player of the Year in 2004 and 2005. "Now, I'm in shape."
Dunga's Brazil have proved deadly when playing a counter-attacking game but many feel that Ronaldinho's inclusion would give them extra options when they have to break down a packed defense, something they have struggled to do.
The inclusion of forward Neymar and Paulo Henrique Ganso, an elegant playmaker, would also give the team an alternative to raw physical power.
Santos coach Dorival Junior said on Saturday that the pair were good enough for Brazil, although he was not sure they would be picked.
"It's not pessimism, it's realism," he said. "The fact that they haven't been selected before and that Dunga can't watch them at first hand, could weigh against them."
But he added: "I wouldn't hesitate in telling Dunga that they are ready to play for Brazil."