Legend Dani Alves in unlikely battle with Spurs' Emerson Royal in Brazil's Qatar World Cup campaign, says Tim Vickery

PREMIER League fans take heed.  After this next weekend, there are no matches until February 8th.  

The action pauses, once again, for another set of South American World Cup qualifiers.  

An extra set, to catch up on the backlog caused by a combination of the corona virus pandemic and the decision to go ahead with the Copa America in the middle of last year.

With Roberto Firmino still feeling his way back from injury and left out this time, there are 10 Premier League stars in the Brazil squad; Raphinha and Gabriel Jesus up front, Philippe Coutinho, Fred and Fabinho in the midfield, Thiago Silva at centre back, Alex Telles at left back, goalkeepers Alisson and Ederson – and Tottenham’s Emerson Royal at right back.

The inclusion of Emerson Royal is more a gesture of desperation than a vote of faith in his performances.  

Brazil has been so blessed with eight backs, but suddenly the cupboard is bare.  

Emerson does not even play there in Antonio Conte’s side – he figures higher up the pitch at wing back, and Brazil coach Tite is far from convinced by him.

But who else is there?  First choice Danilo, once of Manchester City, is out injured.  

Back in the squad is Daniel Alves, recently re-signed by Barcelona but approaching his 39th birthday.  

In a career of glittering success, the World Cup is the big hole – and Alves would love to end his international career on a high by putting that right in Qatar.

Lady luck is smiling on Emerson Royal.  

He has been given a chance that he has done little to deserve.  


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Man Utd star Alex Telles has earned a spot because Renan Lodi is not vaccinatedCredit: AP

But if he can prove worthy of it, then a place on the plane to Qatar is the prize.

Luck has also smiled on Manchester United's Alex Telles.

The extra round of qualifier came as a shock to Atletico Madrid’s Renan Lodi, one of Brazil’s options at left back.  

He had not been vaccinated against Covid – a decision with consequences.  

Brazil travel to face Ecuador in this next set of qualifiers, before hosting Paraguay.  

Ecuador only let in fully vaccinated travellers, and quarantine is required for Brazilians returning home who have not been jabbed.  

Suddenly, Renan Lodi realised that his international place was at risk, and that this meant more to him than any reluctance to be vaccinated.

But the clock was ticking.  Could he have one of those vaccines where only one jab is necessary?  

He could not.  So he received his first jab earlier this month.  By the next, last set of qualifiers at the end of March he might have had enough time to put himself back in contention.  

For now, though, he is out, and opportunity knocks for Alex Telles.  

Alex Sandro of Juventus is the first choice, and Alex Telles will have to take every chance, in training sessions or off the bench, to persuade coach Tite that he should stay in for the run up to the World Cup.

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