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.”
ATTENDANCE UPDATE: As of Sunday afternoon there were 61,500 tickets sold for Tuesday’s match.
PATO IN STREET CLOTHES: 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.
THREE PENDING ARRIVALS: 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.
SMALL-SIDED MATCH: 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.