International Friendly Betting: Brazil v Iraq



Brazil 1.10, the Draw 7.75, Iraq 18.00

The latest instalment of Brazil's Never-Ending Friendlies Tour™ continues on Thursday, when the seleção travel to Sweden to face Iraq. After the Superclássico series with Argentina was curtailed due to floodlight failure in Resistencia in September, Mano Menezes' men will be looking to put down a marker with a fifth consecutive win. Standing in their way: an Iraq outfit coached by one of Brazilian football's most celebrated sons, Zico.

Team news

Brazil's preparations have been hampered somewhat by injuries to two key players. Dani Alves limped off during Barcelona's draw with Real Madrid on Sunday evening and is expected to withdraw from the squad, whilst a knee injury looks set to keep Leandro Damião on the sidelines. Given the absence of another natural centre-forward in the squad, Hulk could find himself leading the line with Neymar and Lucas on the flanks. The main surprise of Menezes' squad, though, is the return of Kaká, who will be desperate to play his way back into contention with the Confederations Cup less than a year away.

For Iraq, striker Ahmed Yasin will be more keen than most to start. The 21-year-old plies his trade in Sweden with Örebro SK, so will surely relish the chance to enhance his reputation at Malmö's Swedbank Stadion. Elsewhere, the Lions of Mesopotamia can count on significant international experience; captain Younis Mahmoud and understudy Nashat Akram have amassed over 200 caps between them. Karrar Jassim is suspended for pushing an assistant referee after a match against Japan.

Form

On paper at least, Brazil have been in good nick of late. A record of four wins in four - and 12 in 14 - hints an upturn in fortunes after a torrid 2011 Copa América threatened Menezes' stewardship. Despite these results, however, there are still question marks over his project; the 2012 Olympic campaign ended in a disappointing loss against Mexico, while a hard-fought victory over South America in São Paulo was marked by boos from the home fans. At the very least, there remains a sense that Menezes still has work to do ahead of the 2014 World Cup.

Iraq's recent results read like binary code. Confidence boosting friendlies against Egypt (0-0) and Sierra Leone (1-0) were followed by 1-1 draw with Jordan and Oman in World Cup Qualifiers. Last month's 0-1 loss to Japan, however, leaves Iraq fourth in their five-team group with five games to play.

Head-to-head

Nothing to go on here: Brazil have never played Iraq before.

Goalscorer betting

Boy wonder Neymar has four goals in his last two outings for the South Americans, taking his overall tally to 13. With an expansive range of tricks at his disposal and penalty duties in his locker, he looks the obvious pick to get on the scoresheet in Malmö. A better value bet, though, might be on midfielder Paulinho; the Corinthians star has a habit of arriving in the box at the perfect moment, and opened the scoring in Brazil's last match against Argentina. Younis Mahmoud's 41 international goals make him the standout threat for Iraq.

Verdict

Brazil will go into this game as clear favourites, hopeful of kick-starting their Confederations Cup preparations in style. While Iraq's recent record suggests they will provide a test, expect the seleção to prevail on the night.

Score prediction

Brazil 3-0 Iraq at 7.75

Bonus bet

Brazil have scored 12 second-half goals in their last five games, showing that the fitness and depth of their squad can really make the difference as games wear on. They've also been drawing at half-time in two of their last four. As such, look at backing Draw/Brazil on the HT/FT market at 4.30.