Fresh start for Brazil in first training session in NJ

Young crop of players and new manager bring hope and energy

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Brazil may be coming off a
disastrous 2010 World Cup by their standards, but there was no sign of it on Sunday
night in their first practice session at the New Meadowlands Stadium ahead of
Tuesday’s match against the USA.

It was all positive energy and the kind of youthful enthusiasm that
surrounds a fresh start. Mano Menezes will make his debut as Brazilian National Team coach and for the occasion, he called up a fresh crop of players including
the likes of 18-year-old Neymar and 20-year-old Paulo Henrique Ganso, who are sure to earn
their first ever senior caps.

“I’m a little bit nervous, but it’s awesome,” Neymar said.

There is great expectation that this injection of new blood
will give birth to a new Seleção that
will play the Brazilian way: with style and flair.

Another good reason that this squad has a bounce in their
step is the fact that most of these players are either recent European transfers
or heavily rumored to get big contracts.

It is the case with Benfica center back David Luiz, who is being
courted by several of Europe’s giant clubs.

“We are all ambitious players shooting for great things,”
Luiz said. “I have my feet on the ground and I’ll know when it’s my time. You
have to know to respect teammates, always keep hope and have it in your head to
take advantage of your opportunity when it comes.”

The theme among the Brazilian players was just that: making the most
of this opportunity. They are all aware that it will be only a matter of time
before established players like Júlio César, Lúcio, Kaká and Maicon are back in
the mix.

“We have lots of talented players and we can do great
things,” said AC Milan forward Alexandre Pato about the new group of players. “I am happy
to be back with the national team and to see a lot of these players again. I
want to take advantage of this opportunity.”

Barcelona right back Dani Alves is one of the elder
statesman on the current squad at age 27. He stressed the importance of giving
the new manager time to work.

“You need to allow for continuity,” Alves said. “We’ll get
to know the coach and learn what he wants and what his strategies are and we’ll
put into practice what he wants.”

As of Sunday afternoon there were 61,500 tickets sold for Tuesday’s match.

The AC Milan forward was the last one to show up in the locker
room ahead of training. He walked by the press zone in street clothes and carrying luggage after arriving late in the
day from Detroit. The Italian club played Panathinaikos at the Silverdome on Friday.

There were 19 members of the 23 call-ups at training on Sunday. Manchester United could have potentially used Rafael at right back in Sunday’s
Community Shield victory against Chelsea but food poisoning kept him out. Also,
midfielders Hernanes (São Paulo) and Jucilei (Corinthians) will be late
arrivals after playing club matches on Sunday. Sandro is in Mexico with
his Brazilian club Internacional ahead of their Copa Libertadores first leg final against
Chivas Guadalajara.

The coaching staff had the field players engaged in a 9-v-7 small-sided
possession game. Playing on the same team was a four-man back line of André
Santos, David Luiz, Thiago Silva and Dani Alves from left to right.

That same side featured a midfield trio consisting of Lucas,
Ramires and Ganso with Robinho playing on the left wing and Neymar on the right.
The only player missing from what looks to be a 4-3-3 starting lineup against the USA was Pato, who was
the central forward on the opposing team.