Brazil upbeat

As
the World Cup in South Africa approaches next month, Brazil, for obvious
reasons are joint favourites with Spain.

There
isn’t really any such thing as a Group of Death. Not since 1966 have the South
Americans failed to emerge from the group stage of a World Cup. This tournament
will be no different.

As
usual, the five-times winners had no problems qualifying from South America, in
a group where bitter rivals Argentina scraped through after managing only
fourth place. Brazil will be aware that no European team has ever won the
trophy outside Europe and they completed a worthwhile warm-up last summer when
they convincingly won the Confederations Cup in South Africa by winning all
five games – including a 3-0 win over World Cup holders Italy. That experience
will stand them in good stead this year.

But
what should serve them better is the experience of their squad. Defenders Lucio
of Inter Milan, Dani Alves of Barcelona and Cris of Lyon, as well as goalkeeper
Julio Cesar, also of Inter, will be fresh from confidence-boosting Champions
League campaigns. Others, such as Sevilla’s Luis Fabiano and Felipe Melo of
Juventus will be playing to possibly earn a move to the Premier League. Star
man Kaka has not enjoyed a great first season in Spain with Real Madrid, but
his performances for his country have rarely drawn criticism.

Manchester
City flop Elano is a favourite of coach Dunga and enjoys playing international
football. Even that other Eastlands flop, Robinho, who has achieved little at
club level since the last World Cup, looks far more of a threat in the gold of
Brazil.

The
ageing squad – they have eight players over 30 – has talent and Dunga has
managed it impressively. But they do not look as strong as in previous years
and may be lucky to reach the semis.

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