England vs. Brazil: 5 Bold Predictions for the International Friendly
Brazil are in London preparing to take on Roy Hodgson's England side on Wednesday night, in what will be their first fixture under the management of Luiz Felipe Scolari for 11 years.
On that occasion, of course, he guided the Seleção to World Cup glory in Yokohama. Now, though, the immediate challenge is England, with the long-term aim must be repeating that global triumph at next year's tournament.
The fixture at Wembley is one of the most intriguing friendlies that either side has played in some time. Both have much to prove and both will feel that victory in this one fixture can provide a much-needed boost to their 2014 ambitions.
Now, while there will no doubt be many who disagree with my thoughts, let's take a look at five bold predictions I've come up with, looking ahead to the big match.
1. Brazil Will Beat England
My first prediction concerns the overall outcome of the game and, heading into the encounter, it is my belief that Brazil will emerge victorious on Wednesday evening.
That said, Roy Hodgson's England have become very hard to beat, whichever personnel are on show, so the Seleção will have to play well to do so. However, while Brazil are heading to London with a squad on a mission, England have seen three players withdraw—including two of just four strikers. (BBC)
There should not be any underestimation of Brazil's determination to win this fixture.
Most players in the squad have something to prove, they need victories to build confidence ahead of the World Cup and, for several players, the chance to extinguish memories of the Olympic defeat to Mexico will be a welcome opportunity.
England will not make it easy for the South American side, but I expect Scolari's side to have enough quality and desire to seize a notable away win.
At the present time, even the likes of superstars Ronaldinho and Neymar have much to prove to the global audience that this game will attract.
2. Scolari Will Be Greatly Praised Post-Match
He can be cantankerous and stubborn, but there is no doubting that Luiz Felipe Scolari is widely-respected as a football manager—even if recent years have not brought great success.
He remains, largely due to his 2002 World Cup triumph, a popular figure among fans of the Brazil national team and, certainly, has proven that he knows how to build a strong spirit among his players.
If Brazil win, as I have predicted they will, I expect much of the praise to flow in the direction of the returning coach. Judging by the players' enthusiasm at his announcement, they will be the first ones to hail his contribution.
Scolari has picked a cautious squad that relies heavily on experience yet, at the same time, has been bold in some of his recalls and lesser-known selections. He has never been one to shirk responsibility, for good or bad.
The English media have been long-standing fans of Felipão, following his past successes over the Three Lions, and I expect that to continue should Brazil beat England once more this week.
3. Danny Welbeck Will Trouble Brazil
Given England's shortage of available strikers, it will be interesting to see how Roy Hodgson approaches the game. Will Wayne Rooney continue in his No. 10 role or will Jack Wilshere's return mean that he reverts to centre-forward? All will soon be answered.
What is certain, though, is that Rooney's Manchester United teammate Danny Welbeck will play a role at some point and, if given support from midfield, has the ability to greatly test Brazil's new-look backline.
Welbeck has not scored many goals at club level this season, having often been asked to sacrifice his play for the good of the team by playing in wide areas. He has still played an important role at times, though.
For England, either as a starter or a substitute, he will play as a centre-forward and will look to run the channels on either side of the centre-backs to open up space.
This could cause issues for Brazil, with the Seleção's full-backs likely to attempt to push forward and leave space in those exact areas. His goalscoring record at international level is also impressive for someone of his age.
With Thiago Silva out and David Luiz a major doubt (Goal.com), Brazil could have a new centre-back partnership of Dante and Miranda for the encounter—a potential issue.
If given the opportunity, Welbeck's pace and tireless running could cause major problems for a pair who will not have ever played together before.
4. Ronaldinho Will Excel on His Return
On the surface, everything points to Ronaldinho's return to the Brazil national team being a disappointment.
His last appearance in September 2011 against Ghana saw him struggle with the pace of the game, while with just one competitive outing under his belt in 2013 it is fair to suggest he will not be match fit heading to Wembley.
It therefore flies against logic to suggest that the former Barcelona star will shine on his return to the international scene, but here is my reasoning for such a comment:
Ronaldinho has been thriving in Brazil over the past year for an Atlético Mineiro side that place him in the centre of the pitch and surround him with pace and energy. Brazil will look to do likewise and make him the centre of all their attacking play.
There can also be no doubting his motivation.
Similarly, the pitch at Wembley will suit him. Aside from being far better than most pitches in Brazil, it is simply a huge playing surface and that will give the star a bit of extra room in which to work his magic.
In that respect, it will be a world away from his last appearance at Craven Cottage and the 2002 World Cup winner will certainly hope for a much improved showing this time around.
5. Phil Jagielka Will Remember Who Neymar Is
Without wanting to make an innocent comment into a major story, it is unlikely that Phil Jagielka will be unaware of Neymar too much longer. The Everton defender's words made headlines worldwide and will no doubt be spun to indicate a slight on both Neymar and the Brazilian game. (The Sun)
It's not possible for many in England to watch much of the game in Brazil, bar highlights and the kick-off times certainly make it difficult if you have training early the next day.
That said, it is surprising that Jagielka confesses to knowing so little about a player who has now been around the international game for some time.
However they were intended, they are the type of comments that tend to inspire opponents and, no doubt, Neymar will have been made aware of Jagielka's words. If he needed extra motivation, he now has it.
Neymar has shone against Scotland in London, while he also enjoyed a decent Olympic Games, but he will relish the opportunity to once more prove himself worthy of the hype he has received.
Many in Europe remain cynical as to the extent of his talents. Now, the Wembley stage is set for him to showcase those abilities.