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Ronaldo and Ronaldinho won't be in South Africa with their Brazilian teammates for the Confederations Cup. ((PASCAL PAVANI/AFP/Getty Images))

For the first time in a long time, both Ronaldo and Ronaldinho won't take to the field for Brazil at a FIFA tournament.

The two have been the backbone and the centrepiece of the Brazilian team for years, but neither will suit up for the Selecao at this month's Confederations Cup in South Africa, as Brazil coach Dunga omitted the veterans from his 23-man roster.

Injuries and personal problems have plagued Ronaldo's club career in recent years and he hasn't played for Brazil since Dunga took over the coaching reins in the fallout of the 2006 World Cup. 

The 32-year-old striker has undergone a renaissance since leaving AC Milan last year, scoring bags of goals and getting back into game shape while leading Brazilian club Corinthians to a Sao Paulo state championship.

Ronaldo in fine form

Public pressure began to mount for Ronaldo's inclusion in the Confederations Cup squad, and even though he harbours aspirations of playing for his country at next year's World Cup, the player himself stated he didn't want to go to South Africa this summer. The Confederations Cup coincides with the opening rounds of the Brazilian domestic championship, and any prolonged absence by Ronaldo would be potentially disastrous for Corinthians.

"I don't think Corinthians expected him to be this good this soon, so the idea of him being called up at this time, it hadn't really entered anybody's mind as a possibility," Tim Vickery, Rio-based journalist and South American soccer expert told CBCSports.ca. "Suddenly he began scoring terrific goals and it became a possibility, but his call up would be a disaster for Corinthians because it would interfere with the reason why they signed him in the first place.

"Next year is the club's centenary year. They've never won the Copa Libertadores [South American club championship], they're desperate to qualify for it this season and win it next year, so the gamble that they took on signing Ronaldo is directly linked with that."

As for Ronaldinho, his exclusion from the Confederations Cup roster is simply down to lack of form.

The two-time FIFA world player of the year has never been the same since helping Barcelona win the 2006 UEFA Champions league. Once considered the best player on the planet, the 29-year-old playmaker has focused more on partying and his social life than on soccer, an attitude that led Barcelona to sell him to AC Milan, where he failed to impress — or even earn a regular spot in the starting lineup — this past season.

It was hardly a surprise when Dunga overlooked him for international duty this summer.

"There was no public outcry because, quite honestly, he hasn't done anything for years now," Vickery said.

Ronaldinho needs to get his act together

After a series of shoddy performances for the Brazilian national team, including at last summer's Olympic tournament where he was clearly out of shape, Dunga appears to be sending a message to Ronaldinho by leaving him at home for the Confederations Cup: get your act together.

"I think this is a case of tough love because throughout the Dunga rein the team has carried him and some of his performances for Brazil have been absolutely pitiful. It's been tragic to watch a player of this calibre throw away what are, theoretically, the best years of his career," opined Vickery.

"I see as very much a kick up the back side of Ronaldinho. The message is, 'Get yourself fit, get out of this state of denial you're in where nothing's wrong. If you do that, you'll be in our plans. If not, you're not going to the World Cup next year.'"

Without Ronaldo and Ronaldinho, Dunga has built the team around a core of European club stars, including Kaka of Real Madrid and Manchester City's Robinho.

But he has also called up five stars who ply their trade in Brazil's first division (Victor, Kleber, Andre Santos, Kleberson, Ramires and Nilmar), a move that has won him few friends amongst Brazilian club coaches because it denies them the use of key players during an important juncture in the domestic soccer schedule.

The Confederations Cup "comes at a bad time because it coincides with the decisive stages of the Copa Libertadores [South American club championship] and the Brazilian Cup, and the opening rounds of the Brazilian domestic league," Vickery explained.

"It's a difficult position for Dunga to be in, because there's always pressure on him to select home-based players. This time he's selected six home-based players for this squad, and as a result he's interfered with the plans of their domestic teams who are involved in these various championships."