Brazil vs. Portugal: Highlighting Top Stars in High-Profile Friendly

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Brazil vs. Portugal: Highlighting Top Stars in High-Profile Friendly
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Brazil and Portugal will descend upon Foxborough, Mass., Tuesday night for what should be an entertaining friendly.

Portugal will be riding high after their 4-2 win over Northern Ireland. They went top of Group F in 2014 World Cup qualification. They do have a game in hand over Russia, so it's a lead that could be short-lived. At the very least, Portugal got that much closer to ensuring a playoff place.

Brazil have already booked their place in the 2014 World Cup by virtue of hosting the tournament. It's both a blessing and a curse. You have the security of knowing you're already in, but you don't have the proving ground that is the qualifying campaign to test your team.

Playing a team like Portugal is a great chance for Luiz Felipe Scolari to continue working out his best starting XI.

Here are four players to watch in this international clash.

 

Brazil

Neymar

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Neymar was brilliant in Brazil's 6-0 demolition of Australia over the weekend, recording one goal and two assists.

There probably hasn't been a more scrutinized player over the past year or so than Neymar. He's got plenty of critics who think he's nothing more than a flashy forward who knows a boatload of tricks and that he took advantage of a Brazilian first division that allows a lot of space and creative freedom.

With the 2013 Confederations Cup, Neymar gave fans a great glimpse of his potential and proved to be worth the hype.

There's no telling how his partnership with Lionel Messi will work out at Barcelona, but with Brazil, Neymar is the unquestioned top dog on the pitch. He looks to be the next in the line of great Brazilian stars like Kaka, Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Socrates, etc.

 

Paulinho

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With some players, their stock is inflated after a solid international tournament—see Diouf, El Hadji. However, following Paulinho's great performances at the 2013 Confederations Cup, he's made a seamless transition to the Premier League.

The 25-year-old central midfielder was a force for Corinthians, especially in the club's run at the 2012 Club World Cup.

He's since become a linchpin of Scolari's Brazil. Paulinho is the critical link for the attack. Luiz Gustavo can be more of the defensive midfielder/ball-winner, while Paulinho is the go-between who can get the ball up to Neymar, Oscar and Hulk at the top of the formation.

 

Portugal

Vieirinha

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With Portugal missing Cristiano Ronaldo, they'll need a creative player to step up and fill that void. There's no way Vieirinha will be able to match Ronaldo's talent, but he could be the the kind of wide man who could play support man for Portugal's centre-forward.

He had a solid season with Wolfsburg last season, scoring one goal and assisting on five more in 27 Bundesliga appearances.

At 27 years old, Vieirinha is not some promising young player with a bright future for the national team. He's just now making an impact for Portugal, appearing in four 2014 World Cup qualifiers.

This is a great opportunity for Vieirinha to continue stamping his place in the national team.

 

Joao Moutinho

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By moving to Monaco in the summer, Joao Moutinho ensured that he'd be getting a hefty weekly wage increase, at the cost of playing against top-quality competition on a grand scale. Having just got promoted to Ligue 1 this year, Monaco don't even offer European football.

With Portugal, Moutinho is usually a part of a midfield trio that includes Miguel Veloso and Raul Meireles.

With the move to the principality, Moutinho will have fallen off the radar of many football fans. Ligue 1 is still behind the Bundesliga, Serie A, the Premier League and La Liga when it comes to standard of play and worldwide audience.

It's easy to forget just how skilled a player Moutinho is. At his best, there are few central midfielders who can match his ability. The 27-year-old can slot in at either a defensive or an attacking position to great effect.

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