Why Brazil are worried about facing Scotland
On the eve of BrazilÃ¢ÂÂs friendly versus Scotland, TV GloboÃ¢ÂÂs English language football commentator Jon Cotterill says coach Mano Menezes has to keep his nerve Ã¢ÂÂ and faith in the countryÃ¢ÂÂs youthBrazil may be in for a testing time when they face Scotland at ArsenalÃ¢ÂÂs Emirates stadium on Sunday. After recent poor results, coach Mano Menezes could be feeling a bit jittery when his team take to the pitch against a backdrop of the massed ranks of the Tartan Army.
Until now Menezes has enjoyed popular support. The coach got off to an excellent start versus the USA in August last year, and wins over Iran and Ukraine followed. Brazil then lost 1-0 to tougher opponents Argentina and France. Defeat to the Scots and the ripples of discontent will start to grow.
Menezes, though, should take heart. The last time Brazil crashed three games in a row was back in 2001. With Luis Felipe Scolari in charge, the side lost four on the bounce (Mexico, Uruguay, Australia and France). A year later, Brazil won the World Cup in Japan/Korea.
Since taking over, Menezes has been steadily preparing a squad for the World Cup in Brazil in 2014. At the same time, he has a number of tricky obstacles to negotiate. The coach has to ready a side for the Copa America in Argentina in July. Next year are the London Olympics. And in 2013, Menezes has to cope with the Confederations Cup. To keep the Brazilian press and fans on his side, the coach knows that his charges have to win at least one of these competitions.
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Correctly, Menezes has been looking ahead to 2014 and right from the start blooded some of BrazilÃ¢ÂÂs most exciting youngsters, such as Neymar and Paulo Henrique Ganso. With an eye on the Olympics, the coach has been trying out players who could feature for BrazilÃ¢ÂÂs Under-23s at London 2012. The Olympic gold is the only major gong that Brazil haven't won and if Menezes could pull that off it would be a major feather in his cap.
CHANGING OF THE GUARDAs the coach experimented with the line-up, a large chunk of the squad that Dunga took to South Africa were dropped to make way for the likes of Victor, David Luiz, Sandro Ranieri, Lucas Leiva, Philippe Coutinho and Alexandre Pato. But two defeats in a row have forced Menezes to put his reformation on hold.
The coach, however, has always insisted change would be gradual. From the off, he shrewdly retained Daniel Alves, Ramires, Thiago Silva, Robinho and Nilmar (when fit) from the Dunga regime.
Yet slowly but surely, more of the squad that failed in South Africa have been recalled. Julio CÃÂ©sar, Gomes, and LuisÃÂ£o have now been joined by Maicon, LÃÂºcio and Elano as Menezes opts for more experience against Scotland. The latter three haven't appeared for their country since the Dunga era.
Elano can certainly justify his recall. The former Manchester City man has been in fine scoring form for Santos, knocking in 12 goals since returning home in January this year.
"Pick me!" Elano makes a point or two
But while some familiar faces have returned, Menezes surprised many by dropping his erstwhile captain Robinho for the first time since he took charge. Likewise, there are no places for KakÃÂ¡, Ronaldinho GaÃÂºcho, Hulk or Hernanes (who was sent off versus France).
Despite these absences, there will be plenty of talent on show when Brazil take to the field at the Emirates. SÃÂ£o PauloÃ¢ÂÂs Lucas Moura, who was outstanding for BrazilÃ¢ÂÂs U20s in Peru last month, gets his first cap.
Lucas Moura Ã¢ÂÂ not to be confused with Lucas Piazon, whom Chelsea have just bought from the same club Ã¢ÂÂ has scored some stunning goals for his club and for Brazil U20s. The 18-year-old recently signed a new contract with the Morumbi outfit who slapped an Ã¢ÂÂ¬80 million (ÃÂ£67m) price tag on his head. If he gets a chance Ã¢ÂÂ and he should Ã¢ÂÂ the midfielderÃ¢ÂÂs pace and shooting ability will be a real headache for Scotland.
InternacionalÃ¢ÂÂs Leandro DamiÃÂ£o was a late call-up. The 21-year-old forward has scored 13 times for his club this year and was brought in as cover for Alexandre Pato and Nilmar, who are both doubtful for SundayÃ¢ÂÂs game. Height and power are DamiÃÂ£oÃ¢ÂÂs chief attributes but heÃ¢ÂÂs surprisingly fleet-footed for his build and heÃ¢ÂÂll cause problems if he gets a run-out.
Presence, power and pace: DamiÃÂ£o (centre) is Brazil's, er, Carlton Cole
Brazil, though, haven't scored in two games. If Pato and Nilmar fail their fitness tests, it wouldnÃ¢ÂÂt be a surprise to see Valencia forward Jonas lining up alongside the wonderfully gifted Neymar. While at GrÃÂªmio, the 26-year-old finished as the Campeonato BrasileiroÃ¢ÂÂs top scorer with 17 goals before switching to Spain in January. Though Jonas has plenty of experience at club level, heÃ¢ÂÂs a novice at international level and this is his first cap.
Other attractions include the England-based contingent Ã¢ÂÂ Lucas Leiva (Liverpool), Sandro Ranieri (Tottenham), Ramires (Chelsea) and man of the moment David Luiz. All these players are likely to feature.
Scotland are in decent form, winning three of their last four games Ã¢ÂÂ their only loss to World and European Champions Spain. Brazil and Scotland have met on nine occasions and the noise coming from the Scots' camp is that they feel confident they can put one over the South Americans for the first time.
Menezes is concerned that some of his younger players could lose the physical battle against Scotland Ã¢ÂÂ hence the recall of some older heads. But while itÃ¢ÂÂs important for Menezes to steady the ship, he also needs to take the long view and give his talented novices the experience they need for the challenges ahead.
The upcoming Copa America in Argentina represents a significant test and winning it would go down extremely well at home Ã¢ÂÂ far more so than a third straight defeat, which would increase the pressure on Mano. But the London prize Brazilians really want to grab is not a friendly win against Scotland this weekend Ã¢ÂÂ it's the Olympic gold next year.