How Brazil Will Line Up Against Zambia
There is no denying it. Brazil are on a roll. Any teething problems noticed when Luiz Felipe Scolari took charge are slowly being ironed out, and the result is a Selecao that look stronger, faster and deadlier in front of goal with every game that passes.
Driven by the likes of Neymar and Oscar, Brazil have won nine of their last 10 games, and lost just one of their last 15 outings—a solitary slip against Switzerland, marking a run that included an impressive charge to the 2013 Confederations Cup title.
Having taken South Korea down with ease at the weekend, the nation will be hot favourites to inflict a similar result on Zambia. The question is, will Scolari shuffle his hand ahead of the second friendly, or can we expect the same lineup on Wednesday?
In the absence of undisputed No. 1 Julio Cesar, the least one can say about Felipao is that he is consistent in his choices for back-up.
All three goalkeepers in the squad play for Brazilian clubs, turn 31 in either December or January, and have less than 10 full international caps!
Botafogo stopper Jefferson is a solid presence between the posts, and has been Scolari's regular go-to man whenever Cesar has been unavailable. After recording a clean sheet against South Korea at the weekend, he should get the nod ahead of Victor and Diego Cavalieri.
Brazil's golden run of nine wins in 10 has been built primarily on a rock-solid defence, which conceded just five goals in that time. For Scolari, defensive solidity and consistency are the foundations of any winning team.
For that reason, we are unlikely to see any great variations from the back four which started Saturday's victory. Dani Alves, David Luiz, Dante, Marcelo—a defensive unit that would be the envy of most nations in world football.
Since returning to the Brazil helm, Scolari has been consistent with his scheme in the middle. Two orthodox defensive midfielders anchor the park, making life easier for a trio of creative talents pushing forward as part of a 4-2-3-1 system.
Lucas Leiva could well get a chance from the start in place of Luiz Gustavo, whom he replaced on Saturday. Further forward, meanwhile, Bernard has impressed almost every time he has pulled on the famous yellow shirt. He will be itching to play wide right ahead of Hulk.
With seven goals in his last nine games, it is fair to assume that Neymar will once more be taking up a key place in his side's plans.
Fluminense forward Fred, combining limitless reserves of enthusiasm and heart with no little talent, has been Felipao's first choice as the sole centre-forward since taking over. For this series of matches, however, injury means the coach needs to look at other options.
Former Manchester City forward Jo took over on Saturday and put in a decent shift, while Hulk is another option if Scolari decides to push him up the field. Also of note is the presence of Alexandre Pato in the squad. While the former AC Milan man lacks the strength and physicality of those previously named, he is a rare talent on his best form.
Possible XI vs. Zambia
D. Alves, D. Luiz, Dante, Marcelo
Bernardo, Oscar, Neymar