Tasked with selecting a suitable opponent for Team GB’s first friendly fixture, Brazil are not a particularly appealing prospect. Olympic favourites with a squad packed with the superstars of tomorrow, a morale boosting victory appears unlikely. Desperate for a first Olympic title, the only world title they have yet to acquire, the Selecao also have half an eye on the 2014 World Cup, which they will host against a backdrop of intense pressure and sky-high expectations.
Coach Mano Menezes has had free reign to select the strongest possible squad and his available options include some of the most sought after players in world football. Neymar is still only 20 but his reputation is immense. Likely to remain in Brazil until after the World Cup, this competition presents a rare opportunity to witness his talent on European shores. Thiago Silva has recently secured a high-profile transfer from AC Milan to Paris Saint-Germain and is one of three senior picks, alongside Real Madrid’s Marcelo and FC Porto’s Hulk, who is a long-term Chelsea target.
Internacional playmaker Oscar is reported to have already completed a medical ahead of a £25m switch to Stamford Bridge, a move expected to be confirmed after the Olympics conclude. With a goal every three games for his club and six games for the national side already, the 20-year-old has been in high demand ever since netting a hat-trick in Brazil’s Under-20 World Cup final victory against Portugal last year.
Manchester United have been thus far frustrated in their pursuit of Sao Paulo’s 19-year-old attacking midfield prospect Lucas. A recent £30m bid was declined by president Juvenal Juvencio, as the player is believed to be entitled to 20% of any transfer fee, a figure set to increase to 30% next month. Lucas has also scored a hat-trick in a final at Under-20 level, during a 6-0 victory against Uruguay in the 2011 South American Championship, he has also opened his account for the senior side against Argentina in September.
A number of European clubs are circling Ganso, who is expected to leave Santos this summer. The tall, elegant left footer has struggled in the last few years after impressing at the 2009 Brazilian Championship. A serious knee injury has curtailed his progress and he will be keen to embrace the opportunity to get his career back on track. Striker Leandro Damiao is a team mate of Oscar at Internacional and has also made his mark in the senior squad, scoring the winner in a friendly against Ghana in September. With 24 goals in 58 domestic appearances, interest is sure to intensify with an impressive showing at the Olympics, where he is expected to lead the Brazil attack, alongside Neymar and Hulk.
Having won only 14 of 24 games since Menezes took charge of the side two years ago, failing to beat the likes of Argentina, France, Holland and Germany during this period, Brazil have subsequently slipped to 11th in the FIFA rankings, their lowest ever position. The former Corinthians coach is attempting to establish a more attacking style than his predecessor Dunga and he will have designs on both impressing and progressing from a group containing Belarus, Egypt and New Zealand. He will look to commence the renaissance at The Riverside on Friday.
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