Brazil are set for a step up in class when they continue their tour of friendlies with a meeting with Japan in Wroclaw, Poland on Tuesday. The Selecao cruised to a 6-0 victory over Iraq last Friday in the latest match against significantly inferior opposition.
In contrast, Alberto Zaccheroni’s Japan should provide a significant examination of how Brazil are shaping up under Mano Menezes with 20 months to go before they begin their World Cup campaign as hosts.
While Japan could only beat Iraq 1-0 in a World Cup qualifier back in September, they scored an impressive scalp with a 1-0 victory over a strong France side in Paris on Friday.
With many people back in Brazil still questioning whether Menezes is the man to lead the country on home soil, a positive result against a strong side, featuring the creative talents of Manchester United’s Shinji Kagawa, will be keenly desired.
While the opposition may have not provided much of a test, there were encouraging signs for Brazil last time out. Menezes blooded a new formation featuring Neymar and Hulk cutting in from either flank while the attacking midfield duo of Oscar and Kaka looked to provide support through the center.
Kaka looked good on his first appearance for Brazil since the 2010 World Cup and even marked the milestone with a goal. However, whether the Real Madrid man will play a significant role in 2014 remains to be seen. While the number of minutes he enjoys and the form he displays at club level will be integral to his future with Brazil, he will also have to show that he can still be a factor against top international competition. Tuesday, against Japan, would be a good place for the 30-year-old former world player of the year to continue to prove that he is not yet a spent force.
Menezes is certain to have to make at least one change to the lineup that faced off with Iraq, with left-back Marcelo suffering a fractured metatarsal in training on Sunday that will rule him out for three months.
With fellow-full-backs Dani Alves and Alex Sandro already out, it leaves Menezes with something of a selection dilemma. A change may also be needed in midfield, with Ramires struggling with illness.
D: Uchida, Yoshida, Konno, Nagatomo
M: Hasebe, Endo
Kiyotake, Kagawa, Nakamura
G: Diego Alves
D: Adriano, David Luiz, Thiago Silva, L. Castan
M: Paulinho, Sandro
F: Hulk, Kaka, Neymar
Prediction: While not always playing the strongest of opposition, Japan’s defensive record in recent times makes impressive reading. Indeed you have to go back to January 2011 for the last time they conceded more than one goal in a full international.
It promises to be an attractive matchup with Brazil, though, with Japan now a technically proficient side.
The quality in Brazil’s lineup should be sufficient to get a victory, although it is likely to be a close run thing.
Japan 0-1 Brazil
Coverage: The international friendly kicks-off from the Wroclaw Municipal Stadium in Poland at 8.10 a.m. ET. A live stream, which you view at your own discretion, will be available here.