Brasil take on Germany on Wednesday evening in the first of a long stretch of pre-World Cup qualifiers. As you may or may not be aware of, as the hosts to the 2014 tournament Brasil already have their place reserved and thus do not need to go through the long and arduous South American qualifying system. That may sound like a positive thing, but in truth it may well turn out to be a bright yellow banana skin waiting to trip up the Seleção as they try to win the World Cup on home soil in 2014.
With no qualifying tournament to play, that means that the only competitive football remaining for Brasil between now and the tournament’s opening match will be in the 2013 Confederations Cup, and even that is rarely one hundred percent competitive. Their South American rivals start their qualifying campaign in October and each team has sixteen matches to play, such match experience that Mano Menezes craves for his Seleção.
The compromise is simple, the CBF (Confederação Brasileira de Futebol) plan to have Brasil playing in several friendly matches against world-class squads over the course of the next three years. Aside from this Germany match, there is a two-game series with Argentina and an away game against Mexico already scheduled for the next two months, and plenty more opponents are being found. These ‘glamour friendlies’ cannot compare to genuine competitive football, but Mano and his meninos will be hoping it provides them with the preparation they require.
Despite the disappointing showing at the Copa América, Brasil will come out on to the field at the Mercedes Benz Arena in Stuttgart tomorrow with an almost completely unchanged team. Santos’ Paulo Henrique Ganso and Neymar will both start despite having wholly unimpressive tournaments, and Robinho, André Santos, and Júlio César keep their places too. In fact, (barring any last-minute surprises) Menezes will be fielding almost the exact line-up that faced Venezuela in their opening match of the 2011 Copa América, the only change being the introduction of Corinthians midfielder Ralf in place of the suspended Lucas Leiva.
The full 23-man squad shows a certain degree of progress and change however, names like Luisão, Elano, and Adriano missed out, while Vasco’s impervious centre back Dedé, Shakhtar Donetsk’s midfielder Fernandinho, and locally-based duo Luiz Gustavo and Renato Augusto recieved call-ups.
However, one player surprisingly left out of the squad was Shakhtar’s Jádson. At the time of his selection for the Copa América, many criticised Jádson’s inclusion and attributed it to favouritism from Menezes, who coached Jádson in Internacional’s youth setup. Jádson was again criticised after it was announced that he would start against Paraguay in a key group match, but his inclusion brought about Brasil’s best 45 minutes of football in the tournament, and he even managed to grab the game’s opening goal. Inexplicably, Jádson was substituted at the half-time interval in that match and did not appear again for the rest of the tournament. Perhaps there was some behind-the-scenes incident that we were not privy to, but the way in which he was brought in and quickly tossed aside was rather baffling.
In terms of Wednesday’s gameplan, it is safe to say that Brasil are going out to win this match. Since Menezes took over as coach, Brasil’s form against the ‘big sides’ has been pretty poor. Defeats against France and Argentina were not at all well recieved. Against Holland in Goiânia back in June, Brasil played a very unimpressive and conservative game which the supporters detested. The defence played well on that day however, and the game ended as a 0x0 draw, but Menezes is under a lot of pressure to come away with a result from this one.
I would not expect to see the huge amount of substitutions that often accompany friendly matches, especially not from Brasil, but some tinkering will be done as Menezes continues to explore his tactical options. One experiment that we are almost certain to see is Fernandinho entering in the place of Ganso. There is no doubt that Ganso is Brasil’s future number ten, but after unimpressive performances at the Copa América, another average game could see him come in for real criticism at such an early age. Fernandinho has been tested in that role in training sessions, and I would be very surprised if he does not get a run-out against the Germans.
Whatever the result in this one there is sure to be plenty of discussion afterwards, and if it doesn’t go to plan for the Seleção there will be plenty of pressure on Menezes and his team. Also bearing in mind the superb performances of Ronaldinho Gaúcho and Diego Souza in the domestic Brazilian championship, the next squad selection could be rather interesting.
Header photo: AP