(Writes through with quotes)
By Pedro Fonseca
RIO DE JANEIRO, May 7 (Reuters) - Napoli defender Henrique was the only surprise inclusion when Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari named his provisional 23-man squad for the World Cup on Wednesday.
The squad, which will be aiming to win the title for a record sixth time, features Barcelona striker Neymar and will be captained by Paris St Germain defender Thiago Silva.
Henrique, who has four caps for Brazil but worked under Scolari at Palmeiras, won out over Atletico Madrid's in-form defender Miranda and PSG's youngster Marquinhos for the spot as fourth central defender.
Scolari admitted the defensive choices where the hardest for him and his backroom staff.
"We had our debates, and why this or why that, and we decided for the fourth defender which is Henrique," Scolari said. "I trust him, I like the way he plays."
Among the other dilemmas, Scolari opted for Atletico Mineiro's Victor as the third goalkeeper, and chose Inter Milan's Hernanes over midfield rivals such as Liverpool's Lucas Leiva and Phillipe Coutinho.
Maxwell and Maicon were picked as the reserve full backs, edging out Rafinha and Filipe Luis.
Only five players return from Brazil's ill-fated World Cup campaign in South Africa in 2010, when Dunga's team were eliminated at the quarter-final stage by the Netherlands.
First-choice goalkeeper Julio Cesar, defenders Daniel Alves, Maicon and Thiago Silva, and midfielder Ramires all made the cut, as did Fred, the striker who played in the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
Although the average age of the squad is around 26, similar to when Scolari's team won the Cup 12 years ago, the coach said this team would require more help in dealing with the big occasion.
"We had more experience in 2002 than this time," he told hundreds of reporters at the squad's announcement in Rio de Janeiro. "Seventeen of these players have never been to a World Cup before. I'd say 10 in that (2002) team had.
"The experience they are getting in the tournaments they play in makes me believe that they won't notice much of a difference between a strong European league and a World Cup."
'WE HAVE LIVED IT'
However, he promised to bring in former players and experts to help the youngsters understand and cope with the pressure of playing a World Cup at home.
"We, those of us in the technical staff, are going to have to pass our experience to them," he said. "We have lived it, and we have to call on some former World Cup winners and some people who have lived through it in the press and other areas who can help us with talks, so we can help them understand what the World Cup is like."
Brazil hs hosted the World Cup once before, in 1950, and the tournament ended in heartbreak for the host nation when they lost the final game to Uruguay.
Scolari, a wily coach who is well versed in sports psychology, appealed to the often fickle Brazil fans to get behind his team.
"From the moment we choose the names for our country I ask that even if they disagree with A or B or C, which is democratic and normal, I want the 23 to be well received and treated as all Brazil players are, and that everyone, the press, the backroom staff, the CBF and fans, work together to pull in the same direction, which is to win the World Cup for Brazil," he said at a major event covered live by several TV stations and internet sites.
Brazil have enjoyed a rich run of form under the former Chelsea and Portugal coach, who returned to take over the national side in November 2012.
They lifted the Confederations Cup last year, defeating Italy, Uruguay and Spain on their way to the title, and have won 13 of their last 14 matches.
Most bookmakers make the home side favourites to lift their sixth World Cup trophy, and Scolari did not play down those expectations.
"We have the obligation to win the World Cup," he said.
The players will meet up on May 26 in Rio de Janeiro and play two friendlies against Panama and Serbia before opening their World Cup campaign against Croatia in Sao Paulo on June 12. Brazil will also face Mexico and Cameroon in Group A.
(Writing by Andrew Downie, editing by Stephen Wood)
- Sports & Recreation
- Luiz Felipe Scolari
- Thiago Silva