Forza Brazil! - Confederations Cup Diary
Without a game since Sunday night, I've been dipping into my old video collection and, with one eye on tonight's Confederations Cup semi-final, the 1970 World Cup semi between Brazil and Uruguay in Guadalajara filled a very enjoyable 90 minutes.
Brazil won 3-1 on their way to their third World Cup triumph and I'll be very surprised if the current Uruguay side is any more successful when they line up against Neymar, Hulk, Fred and company.
Belo Horizonte's Estadio Mineirao will be packed to the rafters as Luiz Felipe Scolari's team seek to put a smile back on the nation's face amidst so much civil unrest. Having completed the formality of winning their group, Brazil will now be expected to step up a gear and show that, contrary to so much 'expert' opinion, they are simply the best, capable of sweeping their fellow South Americans aside and going on to defeat Spain (or Italy!) in Sunday's final.
Neymar has certainly done enough to justify his summer move to Barcelona. Next season's La Liga action promises to be well worth a lot of Saturday and Sunday nights in front of the box, with the link up between the Brazilian and Lionel Messi being fascinating, as if Barca don't have enough star quality. The new boy can expect some pretty rough treatment from opposing defenders but he has shown that he is more than capable of taking it, and dishing out a wee bit in return, so I can't see him being intimidated.
It was good to see Fred finally shine against Italy. Like so many who had seen Brazil against Japan and Mexico, I was beginning to wonder why Jo was persistently left on the bench, while neither Fred nor Hulk had played too well. But two goals against the Italians made Fred's point for him. If Hulk can follow his lead and Neymar continues to turn it on the hosts will be well nigh unstoppable.
Of course, Uruguay don't lack talent of their own. Edinson Cavani hasn't been the subject of so much transfer speculation because he is a numpty. All the major club's have been credited with interest in him - I'm surprised 'Crespo' Cully hasn't had a tale to tell about him spending his childhood in a shanty town listening to RaSellick on the radio! With 38 goals to his credit for Napoli last season, he can certainly play, it is just that he seems intent on keeping the goods under wraps in the Confederations Cup.
And despite all the nonsense about him being happy at Liverpool, Luiz Suarez would bite your hand off (!) for a move to Italy or Spain. Rafa Benitez might even see him as a possible replacement for Cavani at Napoli and, with Carlo Ancelotti now confirmed as coach at Real Madrid, the Berrnabeu might beckon.
Or will Oscar Tabarez reward Abel Hernandez for his four goal romp against Tahiti by keeping him in the side to face Brazil? It wouldn't be such a bad idea. If, as I expect they will, Brazil dominate the game, Uruguay would have a couple of big guns to call on from the bench and, stung by their omission from the side, Suarez and Cavani might finally decide to put in a half-decent shift. We shall see.
Brazilians have yet to forgive Uruguay for spoiling the last World Cup they hosted. Back in 1950, the World Cup was decided on a group basis with Brazil, Uruguay, Spain and Sweden involved. Brazil beat both the Spanish and the Swedes, while Uruguay had beaten Sweden but only drawn with the Spaniards so the home team needed only a draw in their final fixture to win the cup.
All was going according to plan when Friaca fired Brazil into the lead early in the second half but a Schiaffino equaliser, then the winner from Ghiggia, stunned the 200.000 fans in the Maracana and, fully 63 years later, there is still bad feeling between the nations.
Nothing which happens in Belo Horizonte tonight will change that but I'm convinced Uruguay are incapable of aggravating the situation further by upsetting Brazil's quest to lift their third consecutive Confederations Cup.
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