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Several big names absent as Brazil looks to win another Copa America

Casemiro Brazil Casemiro - Getty Images

The lone goal scored in Arsenal’s 1-0 win over Manchester United on May 12 at Old Trafford helped to elucidate part of Dorival Junior’s roster selection for Copa America as he takes the helm of Brazil for the first time at a major tournament.

Receiving the ball from Ben White down the left side, Kai Havertz almost sauntered into the United area, completely unmolested, before spotting the run of an unmarked Leandro Trossard to slot past Andre Onana in the 20th minute.

The ease with which Havertz operated suggested that he must have been offside, but Casemiro – the stalwart Brazil captain who’s been capped 75 times – played him onside. Forced into a centre-back role thanks to United’s litany of injuries this season, Casemiro was trailing the play by a good 20 yards to keep the Gunners onside when they got possession of the ball at midfield. It was Sunday League defending, but the kind that was emblematic of the 2023-2024 Red Devils team and an example of why Casemiro won’t be joining the Selecao at Copa next month.

In fairness to Casemiro, very few players have played as much football as the 32-year-old midfielder has over the past decade. Since 2014, Casemiro has played fewer than 40 games in a season just once. Last year at United, Casemiro made 50 appearances across all competitions. But all of that game-time has seemed to catch up with him this season, with the five-time Champions League winner looking a step slower and making the kinds of poor decisions that are completely unexpected from a player of his stature.

While Casemiro’s absence is understandable, it was one of only a number of tough decisions made by Dorival in constructing a 23-person roster. When you have as much depth and quality on offer as manager of Brazil, there are going to be some very good players left at home. Like with tournaments past, this is once again the case at Copa America.

Making things easier for Dorival, there won't be a contentious battling for Brazil’s No. 1 shirt. With Ederson incurring a broken eye socket in Prem champion Manchester City's penultimate match of the season against Tottenham Hotspur, he will miss out on the tournament. That will leave Liverpool’s Alisson as the clear first choice. Both Champions League and Premier League winners, it was Ederson who was preferred at the last Copa, but it was Alisson in goal at the World Cup. Athletico Paranaense’s Bento and Sao Paulo's Rafael, a pair of only a handful of players on the squad who play in the Brasileirão, are the other two goalkeepers on the roster.

Headlining the Brazil backline will be three of its five most-capped players on the roster in Paris Saint-Germain’s Marquinhos (84), Danilo of Juventus (56) and Real Madrid’s Eder Militao (30). The other five defenders on the roster have a combined 19 caps in Arsenal’s Gabriel Magalhaes, Guilherme Arana of Atletico Mineiro, Girona’s Yan Couto, Lucas Beraldo of PSG, Porto’s Wendell and Gleison Bremer of Juve.

Even without Casemiro, Dorival has opted for a mostly all-Prem midfield, with five members of the tea, plying their trades in England. Like he hasn’t at the back, the manager has not been deterred by inexperience here, either. Wolves’ Joao Gomes, who received his first cap back in March, and Andreas Pereira of Fulham, who has three caps to his name, will be on the plane to the US. They will be joined by Aston Villa’s Douglas Luiz, Bruno Guimaraes of Newcastle and West Ham’s Lucas Paqueta, who is widely tipped to join City during the summer transfer window. Atalanta's Ederson is the lone midfielder who plays outside of the Premier League. Outside of Casemiro, the key omission here is Guimaraes’ Magpies teammate, Joelinton, who has dealt with a thigh injury for much of 2024.

As it did at goalkeeper, injury kept Dorival from a potentially contentious decision when Neymar was ruled out of the tournament with a torn ACL last fall. Even as the Selecao’s record goal scorer with 79 international markers, the former Barcelona and PSG man wasn’t a lock for selection now that he plays for the Saudi Pro League’s Al-Hilal. Three Saudi-based defenders in Renan Lodi (Al-Hilal), Alex Telles (Al-Nassr) and Roger Ibanez (Al-Ahli) were all left off the roster and, despite the influx of big names to the league, there remains the prevailing sense that the quality of competition still isn’t close to the international standard.

Even with the Neymar decision made for him, Dorival was left to make some tough choices when it came to his forward complement. Wunderkind Endrick will make his major tournament debut. The 17-year-old Palmeiras forward, who is set to join Real in the summer, is one of the seven selections. He will be joined by another promising youngster in 20-year-old Savinho, who spent the season at La Liga surprise side Girona on loan from Troyes. Savinho, who received his first cap in March, is expected to join City in the summer. A third inexperienced choice from Dorival is the uncapped Evanilson. The 24-year-old striker has 36 goals in his four seasons at Porto.

The marquee name up front for Brazil will be Vini Jr., who will be heading to a third major tournament following the last Copa and World Cup 2022. In the absence of Casemiro, it’s quite possible that Vini will wear the armband at Copa, with the 22-year-old captaining the side in March’s 1-0 friendly win over England. Los Blancos teammate Rodrygo will join Vini, as will Barca’s Raphinha and Gabriel Martinelli of Arsenal. Porto's Pepe, who earned his first cap in the fall, rounds out the attacking options.

That means there was no room for a number of big-name attacking talents on the roster. In the midst of a season in which he scored 11 league goals, Tottenham Hotspur’s Richarlison was omitted, despite his 20 goals in 48 Brazil appearances. With his workload reduced since the New Year by manager Mikel Arteta, Arsenal forward Gabriel Jesus was also not selected. Capped 64 times by the Selecao, Jesus had appeared at both of the last two World Cups and last two Copas. Enduring a miserable season at Old Trafford with a single Premier League goal to his name, £82 million winger Antony was unsurprisingly left off of the roster.

Winners of five of the last 10 Copas and finalists in 2021, Brazil is seeking a 10th South American championship.