What: FIFA Confederations Cup – Group A
Who: Brazil vs Japan
When: Saturday 15th June, 2013, at 20:00 UK Time
Where: Estadio Nacional, Brasilia, Brazil

Idea of Things to Come

Almost a year from this time, Brazil will hold the 20th FIFA World Cup event, The Confederations Cup, which runs from 15th to 30th June, is the perfect warm-up. Current holders Brazil will face the Asian Cup winners Japan in the opening match, as reigning champions of the tournament and hosts of the world’s biggest football showcase next summer.

The Brazilian Football Association decided to put its faith back into Luiz Felipe Scolari towards the end of last November, at the expense of Mano Menezes. Of course, Scolari was at the centre of the Selecao’s success in Japan and South Korea eleven years ago at the 2002 World Cup, but faces a hard task as the Canarinha failed to find success in the 2006 and 2010 versions, crashing out at the quarter-finals against Holland in that last tournament in South Africa.

As things stand, Brazil are not amidst the heavy favourites to come up with the trophy next summer, a fact highlighted by Scolari himself as he declared that his side will be under a heavy amount of pressure.

“The pressure that’s generated by the media and the country as a whole can lead you to take an approach you wouldn’t normally pursue on other occasions”, he said. “We’ve been playing friendlies up to now and the whole feel of those games is different, especially when they’re overseas. The Confederations Cup will be crucial to seeing how the players react in both positive and negative terms. Based on that, we’ll then start making decisions for the World Cup.”

Looking Ahead

Having missed out on the competition last time around, Japan will be hoping to endure a good year under the guidance of Italian coach Alberto Zaccheroni. The Asian giants have a horrible record when coming up against Brazil – the Japanese are without a win versus the Selecao in nine attempts, losing seven times and drawing twice – but will still hope for better luck this time.

Under Zaccheroni, Japan are the first national team to qualify for the 2014 World Cup. There is a general positive feeling ahead of this competition for the Blue Samurai.

“The Confederations Cup will be difficult, but that’s what we want. There is nothing but quality teams in the tournament and that’s why we want to use the competition as a dress rehearsal for 2014”, declared Zaccheroni.

There is a general feeling that this yet could be the best side to come out of the Japanese islands. Led on the pitch by Manchester United’s Shinji Kagawa and CSKA Moscow’s Keisuke Honda, many are betting on Japan being dark horses in this tournament. With three games for each side in the group stage, every second will count, and the Japanese will need a decent result against Brazil to serve as the correct push throughout the tournament.

Recent form

Brazil 2-2 Chile (25/04; Friendly)
Brazil 2-2 England (02/06; Friendly)
Brazil 3-0 France (09/06; Friendly)

Japan 3-0 Latvia (06/02; Friendly)
Japan 2-1 Canada (22/03; Friendly)
Japan 0-2 Bulgaria (30/05; Friendly)

Players to watch

Brazil – Neymar: The onus is on the 21-year-old starlet to impress and lead Brazil to victory in this tournament. Neymar recently signed for Barcelona and followers are already dreaming of the partnership he will forge with Lionel Messi next season. The Brazilian World Cup team will be forged around his image.

Japan – Shinji Kagawa: The playmaker’s season at Manchester United was a disappointing one, as he managed only six goals and three assists in 20 league appearances for the English champions. He will have to prove himself under new manager David Moyes next season and what better way to put his case than a good showing in Brazil?

Match Prediction

Japan’s awful record against Brazil, coupled with the fact that the home crowd will be behind the five-time World Cup champions will make it a difficult evening for the Asian side. Scolari’s men will be eager to impress and keep the Confederations Cup in their cabinet; they should see their title defence off to a good start. Brazil 2-1 Japan.

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