Brazil will start their quest for a hat-trick of Copa America titles against minnows Venezuela at La Plata today. With the ghost of the Maracana tragedy of 1950 still haunting them, Coach Mano Menezes should make sure that the team he is building for the 2014 World Cup, which they will be hosting, is strong enough to wash off that scorching memory from the football crazy nation’s nightmares. His team has a maximum of 11 competitive matches at their disposal- provided they reach the final here and the Confederations Cup in 2013- before the quadrennial showpiece begins. Each match from now on is going to be crucial.
The good news for Menezes is that he has identified the core of the team for the big challenge. The main difference from the previous squads is the presence of a classical playmaker in Paulo Henrqiue Ganso. He acknowledges this as the key difference, splitting them with rivals including Argentina. He said: “Our
Today at La Plata the Selecao is expected to overcome Venezuela, ranked 68th in the world, but after seeing the Argentines escape with a stalemate against Bolivia in the inaugural match at the same stadium, the champions will be a little circumspect. “We don’t have many ‘dead chickens’ in football. Venezuela certainly isn’t one of them because they are working to change their situation,” the Coach cautioned at a press conference. Venezuela have in their ranks, striker Jose Solomon Rondon who was prolific for Malaga last season and midfielder Juan Arango, who are capable of spoiling Brazil’s party. They also have more solid players in Tomas Rincon and Roberto Rosales.
But the five-time world champions are far more superior to their northern neighbours. Menezes has a fully fit squad to pick from with both Ganso and Alexandro Pato declared fit. The first eleven expected is: Julio Cesar, Alves, Lucio, Thiago Silva, Santos; Luca Leiva, Ramires, Ganso; Robinho, Pato, Neymar. The defence has Maicon, David Luis and Adriano on the bench while Fred is the backup striker. Lucas Moura, Elano and Jadson are the midfielders waiting for their turn.
After taking on from the infamous era of Carlos Dunga, Mano Menezes had a calm period in the office considering his team failed to score in friendlies against France, Argentina and Netherlands. Now the real test begins as he is trying to win back fans who unusually came in less numbers to give farewell while they took off to Argentina.