The Confederations Cup provides the opportunity for the nation of Brazil to test run their infrastructure ahead of next year’s World Cup, but on the pitch the tournament is equally as important for the Selecao. There remains much trepidation in Brazil about the current state of the side, and understandably so.
Brazil enter the tournament on the back of an encouraging 3-0 win over France, but that the friendly result was their first victory over a major soccer nation since 2009, tells its own story. In a repeat of events before the 2002 World Cup, Luiz Felipe Scolari has been called for, but there is still plenty of work to be done if he is to repeat the success from Japan and South Korea on home soil in 12 months’ time.
Scolari leads a side that is in-between generations. Ronaldinho and Kaka -- both of whom were in the victorious 2002 party -- have been left out of the Confederations Cup squad, as hopes are placed on youngsters like Neymar, Oscar and Lucas Moura. But, while that trio has shown promise, few would consider them ready to have the weight of a huge soccer mad and demanding country resting on their still developing shoulders.
The Confederations Cup provides not only an extended period of time for Scolari to mold his side but also as close to competitive action he is going to get before the big event. That starts with a meeting with the only other side to be certain of returning to Brazil next year, Japan.
Coached by former Milan and Juventus boss Alberto Zaccheroni, the Samurai Blue is a side on the rise. Talent of the likes of Manchester United’s Shinji Kagawa, CSKA Moscow’s Keisuke Honda and Inter Milan’s Yuto Nagatomo means they should far from be written off in a tough Group A, which also features Italy and Mexico. And Kagawa has left no doubt about the scale of their ambitions.
“Our opponents are all excellent teams, so this will be a good gauge of how we can perform away from home with a year to go until the World Cup,” he said, according to FIFA.com. “We need this sort of preparation, and I want to see how we handle the atmosphere and how far we can go. We’re going there to win, so the question will be how we can achieve that. That’s my mind-set going into this tournament.”
G: Julio Cesar
D: Dani Alves, Thiago Silva, David Luiz, Marcelo
M: Luiz Gustavo, Paulinho
Hulk, Oscar, Neymar
D: Uchida, Konno, Ushida, Nagatomo
M: Hasebe, Endo
Kiyotake, Honda, Kagawa
Prediction: Japan are likely to present with Brazil with tough opposition in the Confederations Cup opener in Brasilia. The Selecao may have won 4-0 when the sides met in a friendly in Poland late last year, but it should be a tighter affair here. Japan should have plenty of possession with their short-passing based approach. Brazil will be hoping that Japan show the confidence they have expressed in the buildup and will be looking to hit their opponents on the break with the pace of the likes of Neymar and Hulk.
Despite home advantage, it is a match that could go either way, but Japan’s relative lack of quality in both penalty boxes should see Brazil begin with an all-important win.
Brazil 2-1 Japan
Where to watch: The Confederations Cup Group A match will kick-off at 3 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by ESPN, with a live stream available on Watch ESPN.