Brazil look to ease the pressure on new boss
There are more than three years to go before Brazil hosts the 2014 World Cup, but the pressure is already building.
At home the pace of stadium and infrastructure development is so slow that Fifa have already expressed concern, and impending budget cuts forced by the global recession are unlikely to help.
The team are also rebuilding, but after a promising start new coach Mano Menezes faces Scotland at the Emirates Stadium tomorrow with doubts about his tenure growing.
Menezes was second choice for a post made vacant when Dunga was fired after Brazil imploded in the World Cup quarter-final.
The pre-tournament favourites threw away a lead in losing to the Netherlands.
He was appointed in a panic when Muricy Ramalho, coach of champions Fluminense, unexpectedly rejected the job, much as the English FA hired Steve McClaren on the rebound after being jilted by Luis Felipe Scolari.
Like McClaren, Menezes had not won the big prizes but had forged a decent reputation, in his case by restoring fallen giants Gremio and Corinthians to prominence.
In an indication, perhaps, of an open mind the 48-year-old is one of the few national coaches to be on Twitter, with 1.7 million followers.
He made a bright start, confounding critics who regarded him as a pragmatist, selecting a fresh young side and giving them freedom to play.
In a change to recent tactics the twin defensive anchors (Gilberto Silva and Felipe Melo) were replaced by box-to-box midfielders (Lucas Leiva and Ramires).
This was possible as the full-backs, in a 4-2-3-1 formation, were told to do some defending, attacking width being provided by new faces such as Neymar and Elias.
Comfortable victories followed against the United States, Iran and Ukraine.
However, in Qatar in November, Brazil lost to Argentina for the first time in six meetings, Lionel Messi scoring an injury-time winner.
Last month they lost 1-0 to France in Paris where the team's indiscipline was as damaging as the defeat.
Hernanes, Lazio's highly regarded midfielder, was sent off and Robinho could have been, the captain pulling the referee's shirt.
Menezes has dropped both, and continued to omit Robinho from this squad despite losing Alexandre Pato and, probably, Nilmar to injury. He has also refused to call up either Ronaldinho or Kaka, neither of whom he has selected to date.
Internazionale defenders Lucio and Maicon have been recalled for the first time since the World Cup but, with Luis Fabiano absent and Elano injured, this is very much a new team.
That is partly because Menezes, by his own admission, has one eye on London 2012.
Brazil take Olympic football seriously and were delighted to qualify by winning the recent South American U-20 championships.
"It's an important game for us," said Lucas Leiva, "the new manager is trying to build a new team, but we lost the last games so the pressure is a higher."
While Brazil can omit Robinho, Kaka and Ronaldinho, the Scotland manager Craig Levein had to reach into League One to supplement his injury-hit squad.
New recruit Craig Mackail-Smith, Watford-born but with a Scottish grandmother, was even due to play for Peterborough United against Bristol Rovers last night before joining up with the Scottish squad this morning.
They have, however, been at a training camp in La Manga, Spain, and hope to benefit from that preparation tomorrow.
The Scots are yet to defeat Brazil in nine attempts but with an estimated 40,000 supporters behind them, some, at least, are outwardly confident.
"The last time at the Emirates I got a win," said West Bromwich Albion's James Morrison.
"We beat Arsenal 3-2. It's obviously a good hunting ground for me so why not a win against Brazil?"
Levein was more cautious. "You have to stretch yourself at times and see where you are and that's what this game is for," he said.
"It is a fairly daunting task but you can't run away from it. We played Spain last October and put on a fantastic show and arguably Brazil are of that standard. So it is another test for us.
"I am looking for our guys to get confidence out of the game.
"It sounds a bit silly when playing the best team in the world, but there are so many things that can happen in a match that you can take confidence from."
While Scott Brown is fit, Levein is without some of his most experienced players in Darren Fletcher, Steven Naismith and Lee McCulloch, with Graham Dorrans also absent.
As Scotland do not have another Euro 2012 qualifier until September, Levein is likely to field some of the young players capped in the 3-0 wins over the Faroes and Northern Ireland.
- Chelsea have agreed a deal to sign Brazilian teenager Lucas Piazon from Sao Paulo, but the 17-year-old will not join until the next winter transfer window as he is not allowed to make the move until after his 18th birthday. (© Independent News Service)
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