Brazil will encounter one of their own soccer legends when they continue their preparations for the 2014 World Cup with a friendly against Iraq on Thursday. Former playmaking great for the Selecao, Zico will lead Iraq out against his home nation in Malmo, Sweden.
Zico continued his much-traveled managerial career by taking up the reins of Iraq last year and, indeed, this is the third time he has faced Brazil as coach having registered a draw and a defeat when in charge of Japan.
“The national anthem is the most difficult moment, very emotional,” Zico said, according to ESPN. “I've played for Brazil for a long time.
“This is a friendly match, but the other two games, which were at official tournaments, were much more tough.''
For the 59-year-old, though, having to take his team to Europe comes as something of an inconvenience with Iraq facing a crucial World Cup qualifier against Australia in Qatar on Tuesday.
Brazil have no such immediate worries as they continue their friendly tour before heading to Poland and a meeting with Japan. While Brazil will have no competitive action before hosting the World Cup, every match now carries a large degree of importance for under pressure coach Mano Menezes.
With 2002 World-Cup-winning coach Luiz Felipe Scolari now out of work, speculation that Menezes won’t lead Brazil in 2014 has only increased. Perhaps feeling that heat, the former Corinthians coach looks set to give Kaka his first cap since the 2010 World Cup. Once a star for the Selecao, Kaka has been hampered by injuries and a dip in performances since his move to Real Madrid.
Yet, despite only making his first start of the new season for the club last week, Menezes is expected to name him in his starting lineup against Iraq.
Menezes is likely to have to do without Barcelona’s Dani Alves and striker Leandro Damiao through injury.
G: Diego Alves
D: Adriano, Luiz, Silva, Marcelo
M: Paulinho, Ramires
Lucas, Kaka, Neymar
D: Rehema, Shakir, Samal, Abbas
M: Samer, Akram, Munir, Khalid
F: Mahmoud, Karim
Prediction: Iraq’s defensive record in recent times has been admirable so a repeat of Brazil’s 8-0 victory over China last month appears unlikely. Yet with the match with Australia firmly on the horizon, Iraq may not commit everything to the encounter in Malmo. Despite injuries and Menezes still trying to find the right formula, the talent at Brazil’s disposal should ensure a comfortable victory.
Brazil 4-0 Iraq
Coverage: The international friendly match kicks-off from the Swedbank Stadion in Malmo, Sweden at 2.30 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by Gol TV, with a live stream, which you view at your own discretion, available here.