Andrey Santos among new faces on a makeshift Brazil squad still searching for a permanent coach

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The year after a World Cup is usually a kind of silly season for South American national teams, with nothing but low-profile friendlies. This time there might be a little more urgency than usual in the air. There is pressure from many countries to get the next set of World Cup qualifiers underway as soon as possible -- some nations have already sold the TV rights to their home games and are anxious for a quick start.

It could well be, then, that the road to the 2026 World Cup will open up in September -- leaving just the FIFA dates of this month and of June to whip sides into shape. The position is further clouded by the lack of Brazil not having full-time coach. After naming a 23-man roster for an upcoming friendly against Morocco, here are three questions facing the South American side.

What's the latest in Brazil's coach search?

After two narrow quarterfinal eliminations, Tite stepped down at the end of last year as manager. Inside Brazil's FA (CBF), there is a clear preference for a non-Brazilian coach -- with Carlo Ancelotti top of the wish list. But he, of course, is currently busy at Real Madrid.

Brazil's under-20 national team coach Ramon Menezes has been placed in charge for match against Morocco. A clearly emotional Meneses named his squad in a news conference on Friday morning. He mentioned that Argentina's Lionel Scaloni is an inspiration -- Scaloni was a cut price, inexperienced caretaker coach who took charge of Argentina on a short term basis after 2018 World Cup in Russia and ended up taking them all the way to glory in Qatar 2022.

But the circumstances are different. When they sacked Jorge Sampaoli, Argentina had been forced to pay off his long-term contract. Revenue was in short supply. Brazil are under no such constraints.

For Meneses, then, this may well be his only chance with the senior team -- for a while at least. There is no certainty that Ancelotti will be available in time for the FIFA dates in May, or that the CBF will have been able to fix up another top coach. But Meneses will be busy with his primary activity, taking charge of his youngsters in Indonesia at the Under-20 World Cup, which kicks off late in May and extends well into June.

The future, then, is unclear. More concrete is the 23-man squad named for the trip to the World Cup quarterfinals. It is evident that Meneses has not thought of this as merely a one-off game. He is doing his bit to look to the future, picking a squad that looks beyond Qatar to the future of the Brazil national team.

Which new players can break through for Brazil?

With the selections of Emerson Royal and Renan Lodi, Meneses would seem to have expressed a preference for attacking full-backs. Ibanez has come in for Bremer, the replacement of a big centre-back with a player capable of operating all across the defensive line.

Two talents from reigning Brazilian champions Palmeiras have been included -- versatile little striker Rony, and left-footed attacking midfielder Raphael Veiga. There could be an air of politics about this -- the local public always react well to the inclusion of domestically based players.

Five of the squad that recently won South America's Under-20 Championships have been promoted -- goalkeeper Mykael, right back Arthur, centre-back Robert Renan, midfielder Andrey Santos and centre-forward Vitor Roque. Perhaps the most interesting new faces are in central midfield. Santos, who signed with Chelsea in December but back at Vasco da Gama on loan, had an excellent tournament.

Nonetheless, Santos is just 18, and is probably trailing in the pecking order to Andre of Fluminense. Now 21, and almost certainly in his last season before moving to Europe, Andre had a splendid 2022, and came into late contention for a place on the plane to the World Cup. In an ultra-attacking side, he has both to balance the team out and contribute to the attacking phase. Without doubt he is one to watch.

And recent Wolverhampton Wanderers recruit Joao Gomes also gets his first call up. The move abroad has been good for him, and not just because of anything he has done in the Premier League. In a disappointing start to the year, Flamengo have clearly missed his midfield energy. His inclusion ahead of Fred and Bruno Guimaraes is not easy to explain. But opportunity has come his way, and it is up to him to take it.

Any surprise exclusions?

Alongside the new faces are 11 of the World Cup squad -- meaning that 12 of the men who went to Qatar have been left out. A couple of the absences are entirely predictable. Neymar, for example, is injured -- as is Thiago Silva, who is unlikely to play much part in the next cycle.

Others are more striking. Alisson has been the first choice goalkeeper since 2016, but has now been excluded. He is not, perhaps, in the form of his life. But neither is West Ham United attacking midfielder Lucas Paqueta, who has been included.

Perhaps the most surprising exclusions are a trio of players who would seem to be at the top of their game -- Arsenal winger Gabriel Martinelli and the Premier League midfield duo of Fred (Manchester United) and Bruno Guimaraes (Newcastle United).

It is hard to glimpse the logic behind leaving these players out -- although such considerations are barely relevant if this is indeed the only squad that Meneses will name. The next long term coach, Ancelotti or whoever, will have his own ideas.