Philippe Coutinho has endured a painful week. After Liverpool’s Premier League title hopes were all but extinguished on Monday, the playmaker was left out of Brazil’s World Cup squad in favour of Oscar.
Many believed that Coutinho had an outside chance of making the Selecao squad, but coach Luiz Felipe Scolari opted against including the 21-year-old in his plans.
Scolari also left out notable players such as Robinho and Kaka, but included Chelsea playmaker Oscar, who is an extremely lucky young man.
The departure of Juan Mata to Manchester United in January set up the stage perfectly for Oscar to pull the strings in the Chelsea midfield. However, after recording only two assists this season, it is not surprising that the 22-year-old has been substituted in nine of his 14 appearances this year.
On the other hand, Liverpool’s Coutinho has played the same number of matches as Oscar (32) but has more than trice the number of assists, having set up his team-mates on seven different occasions.
While Oscar and Coutinho are both very similar in their physical stature and style of play, the latter has outmatched the former in nearly every attacking aspect this campaign. This could be down to the fact Chelsea have been playing very defensive football, whereas Liverpool’s ‘pass and move’ style of play suits Coutinho’s samba roots.
This is best put into context by the fact that Liverpool have scored 99 goals this season, whereas Chelsea have managed only 69. Coutinho has played a huge role in Liverpool’s goalscoring heroics, making 57 key passes. Oscar has only made 44 key passes, despite generally having better players around him.
People often say that form goes out the window for international tournaments, and it clearly seems this way in this instance. Coutinho has been more successful than Oscar in 2013-14, but his lack of international caps for Brazil has gone against him.
Oscar has played 29 times for Brazil, Coutinho has put on the famous yellow jersey only once. Furthermore, Oscar’s European pedigree plays hugely in his favour, while Coutinho hasn’t featured in the Champions League since he was at Inter Milan. Playing in a home World Cup brings an insurmountable amount of pressure, which perhaps Scolari feels Coutinho isn’t ready for.
Injuries often occur prior to World Cups and it would be foolish to completely write off Coutinho’s chances of a call-up. With Oscar the only fully recognised central attacking midfielder in the squad, the Liverpool starlet shouldn’t write off his chances just yet.