On November 14, the Brazil National Team will face the Colombia National Team in a friendly at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. To the average fan, all eyes will be on Neymar (Santos) and Radamel Falcao (Atletico Madrid). Both players have been the talk of the soccer world for quite some time now, and this exhibition will be a good test for both superstars and teams as both squads have been finally hitting their stride and establishing momentum in preparation for the 2014 World Cup.
Managed by Mano Menezes, this Brazilian team has struggled with inconsistency, various lineup changes and a steep learning curve for the new generation. Prior to Menezes taking charge of the national team, Dunga was a strong advocate of sticking with a veteran core team and phasing in new players very gradually. While that strategy worked well for the 2007 Copa America, 2009 Confederations Cup and 2010 World Cup Qualifying campaign, it was that same strategy that backfired in the 2010 World Cup when Holland eliminated Brazil in the quarterfinals.
This time around, Menezes has been experimenting with many lineups and giving many players, both domestic and Europe-based, an opportunity to showcase their skills at the international level.
Since Brazil does not have to qualify for the 2014 World Cup, Brazil has only been able to gauge its performances through international friendlies. To date, the only official games for Brazil have been in the Copa America, which was a rather disappointing performance.
The core of Brazil under Menezes has been players such as Dani Alves (Barcelona), David Luiz (Chelsea) and Thiago Silva (AC Milan) in defense; Ramires (Chelsea) and Sandro (Tottenham) in the midfield; Neymar up front and super-sub Lucas Moura (Sao Paulo, soon to be PSG).
Over the past year, players such as Robinho (AC Milan) and Ganso (Sao Paulo) have been phased out and replaced by Hulk (Zenit St. Petersburg) and Oscar (Chelsea), who have been able to rise to the occasion when wearing the yellow shirt.
While the new generation of Brazil has been able to learn from a disappointing 2011, the Brazilians have recently received a boost in performance due to the return of Kaka (Real Madrid). After struggling through numerous injuries and subpar form, Kaka has fought hard to regain a place with this new Brazil side, and his presence in the midfield along with Oscar and Ramires has resulted in hand-over-fist victories against Japan and Iraq.
Concerns at the goalkeeper position still exist since no one has really stepped up since Julio Cesar was the No. 1.
Additional concerns include players such as Alexandre Pato (AC Milan), Lucas Leiva (Liverpool) and Marcelo (Real Madrid). While these players could have been regular starters by now, they have been plagued with injuries at the worst possible times, thus preventing them from being regulars at the international level.
Even though Brazil has been seeing positive results over the past six friendlies, it faces a good test in Colombia. The Colombians are coming off their finest form in quite some time and are bringing a full-strength squad to MetLife stadium. Expect the Colombians, in front of 80,000 fans, to give Brazil a tough game—while Colombia has nothing to lose, Brazil is under more pressure for not only a win, but a convincing win.
The Brazilians have had several reality checks under Menezes between their disappointing 2011 Copa America performance, silver medal in the 2012 Summer Olympics and questionable performances in several friendlies.
Brazil needs this upcoming friendly to continue building momentum towards the 2013 Confederations Cup and the 2014 World Cup. Brazilian supporters have expressed their doubts about Menezes more so than the squad itself. Hopefully, Brazil can use this game to give supporters comfort that Menezes is the right man to lead the Selecao.
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