Regardless of what international tournament it is, Brazil's men's soccer team is expected to perform well every time. That is particularly true in the Olympics, as Canarinho will enter London as the odds-on favorite to take home gold. Before Brazil begins that quest, however, it will take on Great Britain in a friendly to prepare for the Olympic tournament.
Great Britain is sure to be excited for the match, as it hasn't had a soccer team in the Olympics since 1960. The English, Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish soccer federations could never come to an agreement, but an exception was made since the Games are in London. Brazil will do whatever it can to spoil the British celebration, though.
Here are three Brazilian stars who must shine in Friday's friendly against Great Britain in preparation for London.
Which player must perform best for Brazil?
There are few faster-rising stars in the sport of soccer than Brazilian striker Neymar, and his skills will be on full display against Great Britain. The 20-year-old Santos star has been dominant in club play and has nine goals in 18 career appearances for Brazil's senior national team. While he still has plenty of growing and developing to do, Neymar is a dynamic and explosive goal scorer who will be the key to Brazil's Olympic success.
Great Britain has a few wily veterans on the roster who will be focused on slowing down Neymar, so Friday's friendly will be a great test for the wild-haired youngster. Brazil has several players capable of putting the ball in the back of the net, but Neymar is going to be the focus of the opposing defenses. That means that even if he doesn't score, he will open up things for teammates. He must be in good form against Britain at the very least.
The vast array of talented youngsters is what has most Brazilian soccer fans excited about their Olympic prospects, but veteran center back Thiago Silva will dictate the success of Selecao in a lot of ways. The 27-year-old mainstay has earned 27 caps for Brazil and was rock solid at the club level for AC Milan. He will move on to Paris Saint-Germain next season, but first he must captain Brazil in the Olympics.
In soccer, the best offense is often a good defense, and Silva must be the defensive anchor. Brazil is going to score some goals, but if it can't prevent the opposition from doing so as well, then it does the squad no good. Great Britain has some good talent up front, so it should adequately prepare Silva for what he will see in London. Leadership and communication is very important on the back line, and Silva must provide that on Friday and beyond.
Perhaps one of those most versatile players in the world, Marcelo is going to be a real X-factor for Brazil in London. He is left back by trade, but his offensive skills are so immense that he can play up top if needed as well. The 24-year-old Real Madrid stud is capable defensively, but he really shines when he is transporting the ball up the pitch and either looking for teammates on crosses or firing absolute bombs on goal himself.
That type of hybrid ability will be of great use to Brazil in the Olympics and against Great Britain. It is difficult enough to deal with Brazil's forwards and midfielders, but when a defender excels offensively as much as Marcelo does, it makes things that much more difficult. Marcelo must impose his will and press the issue against Great Britain in order to prove what the Brazilians are capable of. If he does that, then I'm sure Brazil will have a lot of confidence in London.
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