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Old 18-11-2008, 18:42   #37
Charbel
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It promises to be a footballing carnival in Brasília on Wednesday night as the pioneers and masters of Joga Bonito, Brazil, take on the Samba Kings of Europe, Portugal. There’s hardly a better celebration of the beautiful game to close out the year!

Same Difference

Despite sharing the same culture, history, language, footballing principles and to a certain extent the same type of players, Brazil and Portugal could not have more contrasting fortunes when it comes to winning titles at senior international level.

A Seleção are five-time world champions with eight continental crowns tucked away in the background, while their European brothers can only boast of a third-placed finished in the World Cup (1966) and a runners-up medal at the European Championships (2004).

One thing they do have in common throughout 2008, especially these past few months, is that both nations have been utterly inconsistent and oftentimes just plain unconvincing. It’s even more ironic that two of the most attack-minded, stylish national sides in world football are having trouble scoring goals regularly.

Inconsistent Canarinhas

Brazil coach Dunga has had to endure a topsy-turvy year. Despite winning the Copa América in 2007, he failed to win over his harshest critics and ever since then, almost every international outing has been accompanied by cries for him to either step down or be given the boot.

The problem lies in the fact that the Canarinha simply cannot string together two decent performances back-to-back, let alone victories. An impressive, thumping win would often be followed by an uninspired scoreless draw and if there’s one thing that irks Brazilian fans more than losing, it is those dull, insipid goalless games.

Despite their rocky World Cup qualifying campaign, Brazil are still very much on course to book their ticket to South Africa 2010 as they sit in second spot in the CONMEBOL standings, a healthy four points inside the automatic qualification zone. The same, however, cannot be said for Portugal.

Portugal In Trouble

The Selecção das Quinas currently lie in third place in Group 1 behind Denmark and Hungary and they are in serious danger of missing out on the sport’s showpiece event in the summer of 2010.

Their last three qualifying games have been nothing short of a disaster. A shock 2-3 loss at home to Denmark was followed by surprise draws against Sweden and unfancied Albania. And they have now failed to score in their last two outings. Nothing too overly dramatic, of course, but when you have a squad that possess the swagger of Cristiano Ronaldo, Deco, Simão and Ricardo Quaresma, the one thing that you would expect to see is goals.

All this comes, of course, after their disappointing Euro 2008 campaign in Austria-Switzerland in the summer when they entered the tournament as one of the favourites, grew in stature almost immediately when the competition began, only to bow out tamely to Germany in the quarter-finals.

Even with an experienced, World Cup winning coach like Luiz Felipe Scolari steering the vessel, Portugal continued to flounder at the big stage. And with Big Phil now gone, there’s a realisation that yet another era might have passed without the nation achieving the great heights they always seem to promise.

There’s no doubting that the two current coaches, Dunga and Carlos Queiroz, are under varying degrees of pressure and both are fully aware that they may not have the same job by the time 2009 rolls around. But the pair will gladly forget about competitive football for a while and take Wednesday’s friendly to enjoy each other’s company and trade similar footballing philosophies.

FORM GUIDE

Brazil

Oct 15 Brazil 0-0 Colombia (CONMEBOL WCQ)

Oct 12 Venezuela 0-4 Brazil (CONMEBOL WCQ)

Sep 10 Brazil 0-0 Bolivia (CONMEBOL WCQ)

Sep 07 Chile 0-3 Brazil (CONMEBOL WCQ)

Jun 18 Brazil 0-0 Argentina (CONMEBOL WCQ)

Portugal

Oct 13 Portugal 0-0 Albania (UEFA WCQ)

Oct 11 Sweden 0-0 Portugal (UEFA WCQ)

Sep 10 Portugal 2-3 Denmark (UEFA WCQ)

Sep 06 Malta 0-4 Portugal (UEFA WCQ)

Aug 20 Portugal 5-0 Faroe Islands (FRIENDLY)


TEAM NEWS

Brazil

Dunga has called up troubled Inter Milan striker Adriano to the squad but he has left out in-form playmaker, Ronaldinho, claiming that he does not want to risk the former Barça man picking up an injury while he is still not in perfect condition. Defender Lúcio has been forced to withdraw from the squad after picking up a knock at the weekend in club action with Bayern Munich.

Despite a vacant slot opening up, there’s no place for back-to-full-fitness Roma centre-back, Juan. However, recent omissions such as Marcelo, Diego and Luis Fabiano are all back in favour.

Goalkeepers: Júlio César (Inter Milan), Doni (AS Roma)

Defenders: Maicon (Inter Milan), Daniel Alves (Barcelona), Miranda (São Paulo), Thiago Silva (Fluminense), Luisão (Benfica), Kléber (Santos), Marcelo (Real Madrid)

Midfielders: Gilberto Silva (Panathinaikos), Elano (Manchester City), Anderson (Manchester United), Josué (VfL Wolfsburg), Kaká (AC Milan), Diego (Werder Bremen), Mancini (Inter Milan), Alex Meschini (Internacional)

Forwards: Robinho (Manchester City), Luis Fabiano (Sevilla), Alexandre Pato (AC Milan), Adriano (Inter Milan).

Portugal

Like his opposite number, Carlos Queiroz has also summoned his strongest possible squad although he insists that he is keen to experiment with his line-up. Chelsea defender Ricardo Carvalho is unavailable due to injury, but Real Madrid’s Pepe, who is nursing a bruised thigh, will travel with the squad to Brazil.

Juventus midfielder Tiago has been recalled to the side after a 15-month absence, while defender Rolando and midfielder César Peixoto have been handed their first call ups. The only two surprise omissions are Inter Milan winger, Ricardo Quaresma and Benfica striker, Nuno Gomes.

Goalkeepers: Quim (Benfica), Eduardo (Braga)

Defenders: Jose Bosingwa (Chelsea), Paulo Ferreira (Chelsea), Pepe (Real Madrid), Bruno Alves (FC Porto), Fernando Meira (Galatasaray), Miguel (Valencia), Rolando (FC Porto).

Midfielders: César Peixoto (Braga), Deco (Chelsea), Raul Meireles (FC Porto), João Moutinho (Sporting Clube), Maniche (Atlético Madrid), Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United), Tiago (Juventus), Simão Sabrosa (Atlético Madrid)

Forwards: Danny (Zenit St. Petersburg), Nani (Manchester United), Hugo Almeida (Werder Bremen).


PLAYERS TO WATCH

Brazil – Kaká, Robinho

Yes, it’s the battle of the wizards. And you’d be forgiven for thinking this is another instalment of the Harry Potter series. As usual, there’s always a sinful selection of superstars to choose from when Brazil are in action. But none are quite as influential and inspiring as Kaká and Robinho. The AC Milan playmaker is slowly returning to his best form after a series of injuries prevented him from hitting any sort of consistency, while the Manchester City forward appears to have found a new lease of life ever since his exit from Real Madrid, and he is finally playing football with a smile again.

Portugal – Deco, Cristiano Ronaldo

Portugal’s answers to Kaká and Robinho. Deco started off his English Premier League life at Chelsea with a bang but he has since struggled to replicate that dazzling form. But some time out with the national set-up might just be the tonic he needs, and he always has this tendency to find that extra gear with the Selecção. Ronaldo, on the other hand, is gradually hitting top form after a slow start and he would love nothing more than to bury the disappointment of Euro 2008 with a Ballon d’Or-worthy performance to finish off the year.


PREDICTION

This will be only Brazil’s fourth home game in 2008 but they have failed to score in all three so far. However, goals should not be an issue in what is expected to be a free-flowing match.

The result will depend on how adventurous or how conservative Queiroz’s tactics are. Teams who fight fire with fire against Brazil rarely come out on top and it’s also worth remembering that Portugal have only ever won four times in their previous 17 meetings against the South Americans.

Brazil 3-2 Portugal

KS Leong

http://www.goal.com/en/news/468/inte...razil-portugal


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