Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari will get another high-profile opportunity to develop his side before this summer’s Confederations Cup and next year’s World Cup when they meet Italy in Geneva on Thursday.
In his opening game in charge of his second spell leading the Selecao, Scolari endured a disappointing defeat at Wembley to England. And the former Portugal and Chelsea coach has said that he expects another tough contest against Cesare Prandelli’s side.
“Italy are way ahead of us in terms of rebuilding their team,” he told Mediaset. “My Brazil side have played two games but Prandelli's team are the European Championship runners-up."
Scolari recalled one of the stars of his 2002 World Cup winning squad, Ronaldinho, for his first match last month, but the Atletico Mineiro man has been dropped after a poor showing against England. This time around it is another veteran, Kaka, who will be given a chance to show that he still has a future with the national side.
Kaka is expected to get a run out in the second half, with Oscar beginning in the advanced midfield role. In place of the injured midfielders Ramires and Paulinho will be debutant Fernando, of Gremio, as well as Hernanes. The Lazio man has not played for Brazil in more than a year but now has the opportunity to begin to fulfill his undoubted potential on the international stage.
Italy will be using the game as a warm-up for their World Cup qualifier with Malta next week. The Azzurri sit four points clear at the top of their group and already look a near-certainty to be among Europe’s representatives next year. They will also be heading to Brazil this summer where they are drawn in the same group as the hosts in the Confederations Cup.
Veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon views Thursday’s friendly as an important part of their preparation.
“The friendly will be a good test for us," Buffon said, according to FIFA’s website. "We have three months to prepare for the Confederations Cup and we want to win it."
Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini will miss the match with an ankle injury.
D: Maggio, Bonucci, Barzagli, De Sciglio
Marchisio, De Rossi
F: Balotelli, Osvaldo
G: Julio Cesar
D: Alves, Dante, David Luiz, Filipe Luis
M: Fernando, Hernanes
Hulk, Oscar, Neymar
Prediction: Italy have been traditionally poor in friendlies and that record has been even worse of late, with their draw against the Netherlands last month ending a run of five straight defeats. There may be more incentive to impress against true glamor opponents, but the greater motivation is likely to be with a Brazil side that needs to make the most of every opportunity to build cohesion ahead of the enormous pressure of performing on home soil at the World Cup.
Scolari’s side also looks to have far better balance, especially without the ball, than the one chosen against England, and they could secure at least a credible draw.
Italy 1-1 Brazil
Where to watch: The international friendly will kick-off from the Stade de Geneve at 3:45 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by beIN Sport. A live stream, which you view at your own discretion, will be available here.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.