Hulk’s time to make a striking difference for Brazil against Colombia

Misplaced on the wing, Brazil need the the misfiring Zenit man to step up

Brazil’s Hulk has yet to find his best form in this World Cup. Photograph: Reuters

Brazil’s Hulk has yet to find his best form in this World Cup. Photograph: Reuters

Fri, Jul 4, 2014, 01:00

When Hulk played in last year’s Confederations Cup tournament in Brazil he had the crowd on his back for much of it.

In his place they wanted Lucas Moura, the talented PSG attacker they knew well from his early years at São Paulo. Hulk could draw on no such reserves of good will having failed to leave any mark on the country’s footballing consciousness by the time he went abroad aged 17 after just 65 minutes for his club Vitória.

But when Scolari named his World Cup squad in May grumbling about Lucas’ exclusion was confined to a hard-core of são-paulinos and Hulk felt at last like an integral member of the side. At warm-up games for the World Cup there were now fans with Incredible Hulk masks and dolls and his powerfully built backside has turned the 27 year old from the pineapple growing state of Paraíba into something of a cult figure among Brazilian women.

But now ahead of today’s quarter-final against Colombia in Fortaleza the criticism is back after the Zenit Saint Petersburg player was responsible for Chile’s equaliser in his team’s brush with elimination .

Felipão called the mistake “unacceptable” at a World Cup and with no goals and no assists in his three matches so far the Brazilian press reported Hulk was set to be dropped for Colombia. Against Chile only Fred misplaced more passes and only Neymar was disposed more times and of the three Hulk’s shooting accuracy was the worst at just 36 per cent.

But barring any last minutes surprises he should once again take up his starting spot on the left against Colombia, further proof of how the player has become a central piece in Scolari’s thinking as he navigates an increasingly treacherous course to a sixth world title.

In part, this endurance in the face of renewed criticism highlights Brazil’s paucity of other striking options at the tournament. Fred was joint top scorer in last year’s Confederations Cup with five goals but is woefully out of form 12 months on when it really matters.

His slump is all the more alarming considering his understudy Jô, the Manchester City flop, has looked out of his depth when coming on for him; unsurprisingly given his inclusion in the Brazil squad left many fans leaning heavily on their faith in Scolari’s judgement.

With each shank and fresh air swipe Jô’s presence looks more and more of a self-inflicted handicap and those who had argued in favour of a recall for 33-year old veteran Luís Fabiano, who was in form back at São Paulo just before the Brazilian domestic season broke for the tournament, now look increasingly prescient.

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