The Best Brazil XI of 1990 to 2010

Brazil has long reigned as a global footballing superpower. With five World Cup trophies and countless superstars throughout the years, the status is well earned. For their creative flair and vibrant shirts, the Brazilian national team is one of our favourites at Beautiful 90s. While Neymar dazzles us with speed, skill, and agility today, we also love to look back on legendary Brazilians of the past. So we decided to put together a starting eleven of the greatest Brazilian players. 

But everyone and their mum have put together an all-time best Brazilian team at some point. So instead of dissecting the entire scope of their colossal football history, we’re focusing on two of our favourite decades: the 1990s and 2010s. Brazil fielded many world-class talents and won two World Cups over these 20 years, in the 1994 and 2002 tournaments. It was still tough to narrow down, but here’s our best ever Brazil XI of 1990 to 2010: 

BACKLINE

We opted for a traditional four man back line in front of the keeper.

Goalkeeper – Dida

Dida makes a save at the 2006 World Cup. 

Dida made his first senior appearance for the Seleção at 21 years old at the 1995 Copa America. For the next few years, he rotated in and out of the keeper selection at the national level and remained on the bench in both the 1998 and 2002 World Cups. But following a spell of excellent form for AC Milan at the club level, which gained recognition for a Ballon d’Or nomination in 2003, he finally earned the #1 spot for Brazil in the 2006 World Cup. In his prime, Dida was known for unbelievable acrobatic saves and a commanding presence in the box. He finished his career with 91 appearances for Brazil and more than a dozen team trophies for club and country. 

Right Back – Cafu

Cafu celebrates at the 2002 World Cup. 

While Maicon and even Dani Alves were also eligible options in this 1990 to 2010 era, Cafu’s monumental legacy for his country makes him an easy choice for the right-back role. Between 1990 and 2006, the dynamic full-back made 142 appearances for the Seleção, more than any other Brazilian player to date. He was called up for an impressive four World Cups and won two of them in 1994 and 2002. Beyond his success with the national team, Cafu made a staggering 384 appearances combined for AC Milan and AS Roma and scored 12 goals along with 39 assists in that time. 

Right Centre Back – Thiago Silva

Thiago Silva commands his teammates in a 2019 Copa America match.

At right centre back, the benefit of hindsight makes Thiago Silva an attractive option. Although the peak of his national team career came after 2010, his debut for the senior team was in 2008, making him eligible for our selection. We gave him the #15 shirt, the same he was given for the 2010 World Cup, despite not making an appearance in the tournament. By the end of 2010, Silva had played in more than 50 matches for AC Milan in only one and a half seasons, establishing himself as a cornerstone in the squad at 25 years old. Now, captain of both Brazil and PSG, we think the raw talent and athleticism of a 2010 version of Thiago Silva would be a formidable defensive force in this backline. 

Left Centre Back – Lúcio

Lúcio leaps over a sliding challenge.

Lúcio often appears in selections for an all-time Brazil XI, and he’s undoubtedly the top Brazilian central defender in this era of 1990 to 2010. His contributions for the national team spanned from 2000 to 2011, as he made 105 appearances and played a key role in the 2002 World Cup victory. Tall and powerful, Lúcio dominated the opposition in the air, but was also known to glide across the pitch in possession of the ball, earning the nickname O Cavalo, “the horse.” His achievements at the club level include several league titles and domestic cup trophies with Bayern Munich and Inter Milan, as well as one Champions League trophy with Inter. 

Left Back – Roberto Carlos

Roberto Carlos unleashes a screamer free-kick against France in 1997.

A regular name in discussions about the greatest left-back of all time, Roberto Carlos was an easy choice for this squad. Full of pace, stamina, attacking prowess, and work ethic, he was a hero for both club and country. Beyond defensive ability, Roberto Carlos could whip deadly crosses into the box and be well known for free kicks that seemed to defy the laws of physics. His career for the Seleção was distinguished by 11 goals and 10 assists in 125 appearances between 1992 and 2006. Carlos enjoyed the best days of his club career at Real Madrid, where he scored 69 goals and assisted 89 times in 524 appearances across all competitions. His impressive list of honours includes the 2002 World Cup, as well as four La Liga titles and three Champions League trophies. 

MIDFIELD

We decided on two holding midfielders and one attacking midfielder to support three forward players further up the pitch.

 

Right Centre Midfield – Dunga

Dunga carries the 1994 World Cup trophy. 

Dunga’s exceptional work ethic, defensive positioning, tactical awareness, and intangible impact as a leader make him an outstanding choice for the first holding midfielder role in our squad.  Dunga scored six goals and notched four assists across 91 appearances for Brazil between 1987 and 1998. He captained Brazil to World Cup glory in 1994, and led his team to a second consecutive World Cup final in 1998, though they were decisively defeated by France. Many players in our starting eleven captained Brazil at some point, but Dunga also managed the Seleção from 2006 to 2010 and 2014 to 2016. He coached several of the players that he would play alongside in this 1990 to 2010 dream team. His strategic instinct and commanding legacy make him our top pick for the captain’s armband in this squad. 

Left Centre Midfield – Zé Roberto

Zé Roberto in action at the 2006 World Cup.

Next to Dunga in a holding role, we selected versatile midfielder, Zé Roberto. Comfortable on his left foot, Zé Roberto could adjust his playstyle and perform in just about any role asked of him. Throughout his impressive career, he played as a full-back, a box-to-box midfielder, attacking midfielder, and even as a winger. His stamina and all-around skill paired excellently with Roberto Carlos on the left flank in the 2002 World Cup team, and we’ve reconnected the duo here. Zé Roberto made 86 appearances for Brazil between 1995 and 2006, though his superb ability was most prominent in his performances at the club level. His most prolific seasons came at Bayer Leverkusen and Bayern Munich, where he amassed a total of 39 goals and 104 assists in 398 total appearances for the two clubs. His spell at Bayern helped the team to win four Bundesliga titles and four DFB-Pokal cups at Bayern. 

Attacking Midfield – Kaká

Kaká in possession against Argentina. 

As we approach the front line, we see the more exciting and well-known superstars in this team emerge. Kaká is widely recognised as one of the best players of his generation, especially during his seasons at AC Milan in the 2000s. In his prime, Kaká was both pacey and agile and could pick out incisive passes or fire precise shots on goal. From 2010 onward, a series of intermittent injuries sadly hurt his pace and athleticism. As he struggled with injury, Kaká couldn’t quite maintain the unbelievable form of his early career, but his technical ability still made him an excellent player. Kaká scored 29 goals and assisted 16 times in 92 appearances for the Seleção between 2002 and 2016. His most notable club contributions were at AC Milan and Real Madrid, where he combined for 133 goals and 124 assists across 427 total appearances for each club. While he most often wore the #8 shirt or #10 shirt, we reserved #8 for Dunga and decided to give #10 to a superstar further up the pitch, leaving Kaká with the #20 that he occasionally wore in his later appearances for Brazil. 

FORWARDS

Ronaldinho attacks the right flank, playing just behind Ronaldo at striker, while Rivaldo offers firepower on the left-wing. 

Right Wing / Attacking Mid – Ronaldinho

Ronaldinho strikes a free kick with incredible technique. 

A man who likely needs no introduction, Ronaldinho remains one of the greatest footballers of all time. Though he lacked consistency towards the end of his career, his ability in the 2000s was unmatched, especially at Barcelona from 2003 to 2008. His captivating speed, flair, vision, and precision in shooting and passing won him the 2005 Ballon d’Or.  At the national level, Ronaldinho was a marquee attacker in the 2002 World Cup victory. He amassed 97 appearances for Brazil from 1999 to 2013 and contributed 33 goals and 20 assists in that time. For Barcelona, he scored an astonishing 94 goals and assisted 71 times in 207 appearances. While he most often played either as an attacking midfielder or left-winger, we’ve deployed him on the right flank in order for the more one-footed Rivaldo to take charge on the left. 

Left-Wing – Rivaldo

Rivaldo celebrates his magnificent goal against Belgium in the 2002 World Cup. 

Famously referred to as a “bandy-legged-genius,” Rivaldo was a precursor to the prodigal talents of Ronaldinho and Kaká that emerged towards the end of his career. He is not as well-remembered these days as he deserves, perhaps because the successes of Ronaldinho and Kaká overshadowed him in football’s more recent memory. At the height of his ability, Rivaldo could glide past defenders with ease and was a clinical finisher both in and outside of the box. Rivaldo’s greatest contribution to the Seleção came in the 2002 World Cup, where he scored five goals and assisted another two. In total, he managed 35 goals and three assists in 74 appearances for Brazil between 1993 and 2003. Rivaldo won the Ballon d’Or in 1999, in recognition of his outstanding performances for Barcelona. By far his greatest club spell, Rivaldo’s time at Barcelona was distinguished by 130 goals and 45 assists in 235 total appearances. 

Striker – Ronaldo

Ronaldo celebrates scoring in the 2002 World Cup final, sporting one of the strangest haircuts in World Cup history. 

Like Ronaldinho, our selection at striker will come as no surprise. To this day, many consider Ronaldo Nazário (not to be confused with Cristiano), as the greatest out and out striker of all time. He was simply undefendable at the pinnacle of his ability. A blistering pace, dazzling skill on the ball, infinite stamina, and a ferocious shot on both feet made him an absolute joy to watch. His career at the national level spanned 17 years from 1994 to 2011. In that time, he found the back of the net 62 times and assisted another 12 across 98 appearances. His fantastic form for club and country won him the Ballon d’Or in both 1997 and 2002. Ronaldo enjoyed playing at several top clubs in Europe, including short but prolific spells PSV and Barcelona, and more long-term contributions to Real Madrid and Inter Milan. Between Inter and Real, Ronaldo scored a staggering 163 goals and provided 46 assists in a total of 276 appearances. His iconic talent makes him a straightforward pick to lead the front line in our top Brazilian squad of 1990 to 2010. 

FULL TEAM

Our completed team sheet of the Best Brazil XI from 1990 to 2010. While we’ve presented it as a 4-3-3, it could also operate as a 4-2-3-1. While many of these talents overlapped with each other and shared time on the pitch, this exact squad was never able to combine in reality. What an incredible team it would be! 

Where to find excellent and affordable retro Brazil kits

At Beautiful 90s, we love football history. Not just to relive the achievement and talent of past players, but also to celebrate the stylish and iconic shirts they wore. In theme with our Best Brazil XI of 1990 to 2010, we’d love you to check out our favourite Brazilian football kits throughout history. We remake classic designs with high-quality materials and impeccable attention to detail. Our Brazilian football replicas include:

1993-1994 Brazil World Cup replica retro football shirt
1998 Brazil home yellow retro replica football shirt
2006 Brazil home yellow retro replica football shirt
2004-2006 Brazil home retro replica football shirt

We hope you enjoyed our squad selection, remembering some of the greatest Brazilian players in recent history. Cheers!

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