Brazil’s soccer coach Luiz Felipe Scolari will have to watch events in Major League Soccer ahead of the World Cup after a key team member opted to play there.
Goalkeeper Julio Cesar, part of Brazil’s Confederations Cup-winning team last year, will play for Toronto FC when the North American soccer season starts in March. Cesar, a Champions League winner, has hardly played this season after being benched by London-based Queens Park Rangers of England’s second tier.
Scolari and Brazil’s technical director Carlos Alberto Parreira named Cesar, 34, in the squad for next month’s exhibition game against South Africa and were faced with questions about whether U.S. soccer’s top league is a good enough stage for a member of Brazil’s national team.
Major League Soccer “is not technically one of the best in the world but, undoubtedly, it has improved its level with the signing of great players and one important thing is that it is very competitive,” Parreira told reporters in Rio de Janeiro yesterday. “For us it was important to have Julio Cesar playing and he’ll be playing in a competitive league.”
Cesar is among three high-profile players to swap Europe for Toronto FC ahead of the new season. He’s joined by occasional England national team striker Jermain Defoe and Michael Bradley, who will play in midfield for the U.S. at the World Cup. MLS has accelerated its recruitment of top stars following David Beckham’s arrival there in 2007. Beckham last week announced plans to bring an MLS team to Miami.
Brazil will be seeking a record-extending sixth World Cup championship when it stages the tournament on home soil this year. Scolari, who led the country to the title in 2002, was rehired last year as the team struggled.
Under Scolari, Brazil swept World Cup champion Spain 3-0 in the final of the Confederations Cup in June. According to the U.K.’s Ladbrokes Plc., Brazil is 3-1 favorite to win the World Cup final in Rio’s Maracana Stadium on July 13.
Cesar was the goalie when Brazil lost to the Netherlands in the quarterfinal of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. He won five Italian championships and the Champions League with Inter Milan prior to his move to QPR in 2012.