Looking to build upon the 6-0 mauling of Iraq, Brazil meet Japan in the perennial expat heartland (probably) of Wroclaw this afternoon. The Samurai Blue will be confident of providing a sterner challenge than they did the last time these two sides met, when a Ronaldo-inspired seleção romped to a convincing victory in the group stage of the 2006 World Cup. The Brazil side looks rather different these days, of course, with only one player – Kaká – remaining from the squad of six years ago.
Brazil are likely to field a makeshift back four, with Marcelo having joined Daniel Alves on the treatment table this week. Adriano is likely to continue on the right of the defence, while the left-back slot will be filled by either Leandro Castán (a centre-back) or Thiago Neves (an attacking midfielder). Needless to say this is hardly ideal. Further forward, a knock to Ramires could trigger a reshuffle in midfield, with Sandro the likely beneficiary.
Japan are likely to welcome back Keisuke Honda, who should dovetail well with Shinji Kagawa behind a lone striker. Internazionale full-back Yuto Nagatomo will provide some thrust from the back, while Yasuhito Endo will keep things ticking over in the centre of the park.
Brazil were excellent against Iraq, with Oscar and Neymar particularly effective. The seleção have now scored 16 goals in three games, albeit against fairly modest opponents. Japan picked up an impressive win against France last week, a result that underlines their recent strength. They haven’t lost since February.
These sides have met on three occasions, with the two meetings prior to 2006 both ending in draws. Japan twice came from behind to earn a point in the 2005 Confederations Cup, a competition they will take part in later this year in… Brazil.
Two-goal hero Oscar has been in superb form of late and looks a good bet to get his name on the scoresheet in Poland. The Chelsea youngster is at 3.05 to score and 7.00 to net first. Another player to look at is Paulinho (6.00 anytime); the midfielder is a threat in the air and was unlucky not to notch against Iraq.
While Japan will test Brazil, the seleção surely have the talent to pick up another win. Defensive injuries will give the underdogs hope, but the attacking riches at Mano Menezes’ disposal should swing this one.
Brazil 4-1 Japan (22.00)
The 7.00 available on Neymar to score twice or more looks tempting, as does the 14.00 for Oscar to do the same. Dutch both and cross your fingers.