Before Kaká there was Ronaldinho. Before that, there was Ronaldo, preceded by Rivaldo, Romario, Zico, Rivelino and Pelé.
The point being, with Brazil there is always greatness emerging, another superstar honing their craft, waiting for the opportunity to be discovered.
For those within driving distance of Seattle, Saturday night affords the chance to discover greatness. Whoever becomes the next Great One, odds are that he will be wearing a yellow shirt at Qwest Field.
That’s why Dunga, the coach of Brazil’s national team, seems unfazed by the absence of Kaká or Ronaldinho. He reminded reporters during a conference call that Brazil beat Argentina (3-0) for the South American championship last summer–and did so without either player.
“I always bring who’s playing the best,” says Dunga. “At Copa America we were very successful. That’s because Brazil is very rich in talent.”
In truth, it is an embarrassment of riches. For as long as anyone can remember, there’s been the widespread belief that a Brazil B team would regularly advance to the World Cup quarterfinals. However, Dunga isn’t brining a B team to Seattle. This is the same squad which will meet Argentina in an important World Cup qualifier on June 18.
Brazil is bringing its best, it’s A team. Now the fun begins.
See these magicians at work against Canada. Once the final whistle blows, you can then make your case for the next Great One.
Will it be Robinho, the starlet we first saw with Real Madrid two summers ago? Maybe it’s the once-forsaken Adriano, now back in form for Sao Paulo. Or perhaps it’s Seville’s Luis Fabiano, the top scorer in Spain.
See for yourself and let the great debate begin.
They call such games ‘friendlies,’ but as Canada’s Dwayne De Rosario points out, the pleasantries are saved strictly for postgame.
“Friendlies are a thing of the past,” says De Rosario, Canada’s top active scorer with 13 international goals in his career. “Teams have got to get results.
“All the players know this is going to be a battle,” he adds. “Brazil is going up (here) to spank a team. It would be nice to get a win against Brazil. It’s friendly, but as a professional I want to get the result.”
For this particular match Dale Mitchell, the Canada coach, did not need to twist arms, compelling players to make themselves available.
“Our players will be delighted to get the opportunity to play in a game like this,” says Mitchell. “The atmosphere at Qwest will be electric, and obviously the quality of opponent is, without question, one of the top 2-3 teams in the world and the most famous national team of all.
“Any time you have the opportunity to play Brazil–I had the opportunity as a player and as coach of the youth team–it’s an honor and a big challenge. We’re all looking forward to it.”
Says De Rosario: “Brazil is a team I always admired as a kid. I admire the way they played, their style, the way they keep possession and everyone plays for each other. I like big games, big moments and I think players feed off these moments.”Gap’s Closing
A generation ago, all but about a dozen teams throughout the world were considered nothing but road kill for Brazil. But that’s rapidly changing, especially in this region, CONCACAF.
Mexico is the last team to defeat Brazil. The U.S. beat Brazil for the first time in 1998 and Canada has earned draws in two of its three meetings.
Dunga, a member of the Brazilian world champions in 1994, says it was, and is, only a matter of time.
“Soccer today is much more globalized and players play everywhere internationally. That helps approximate and close the gap,” Dunga says. “And when it comes to national teams, because of international exposure for the top players, the gap really closes.”
Whereas 30 years ago Canadian players would’ve only read about or seen the Brazil’s best on TV, today they are better prepared and perhaps have played with or against the top stars in Europe. Of Canada’s selections for this match, 15 ply their trade in European leagues.
Instead of being intimidated, De Rosario says he and his teammates simply respect the opposition.
“We need to play with confidence. When we get the ball we need to keep it as long as possible,” he says. “If you’re in awe, you’re in a little bit of trouble.”
Turn On, Tune In
With Euro 2008 and World Cup qualifying coming up within a couple weeks, international matches will fill gaps in TV schedules left by the now-completed European leagues.
The best catches feature France, which plays Paraguay at lunchtime Saturday and Colombia on Tuesday (both Setanta). Coming off a defeat at England, the U.S. will endeavor to be a little less plain at Spain on Wednesday (2:30, ESPN2). The Euro 2008 begins June 7 on ESPN2 and ESPN Classic.
From MLS on Saturday, there’s sure to be a raucous crowd on hand for the Galaxy’s game in Toronto (12:30, CBC), and that night (5:30, HDNet) New York takes on Houston.
Want to see the new stadium in Montreal? Portland visits the Impact on Friday (5 p.m., Fox Soccer Channel) in the USL Game of the Week.Throw-Ins
There are still good seats available for the Brazil-Canada match, and the Qwest Field box office opens at 10 a.m. Saturday…If you watched the Champions League final between Man United and Chelsea, you were not alone. It set a record for UEFA matches on ESPN2, drawing approximately 1.1 million viewers at midday in America…The FIFA Congress has begun in Sydney, with United Arab Emirates earning host rights to the Club World Cup in 2009-10 and overwhelming support for limiting the number of foreign players on clubs worldwide. The FIFA Humanitarian Relief Fund also donated $200,000 to crisis agencies in China and $100,000 to Myanmar…The Sounders’ longest single road trip of the USL season resumes Friday in Puerto Rico and Sunday in Miami. Seattle opens U.S. Open Cup play June 10 in Phoenix against the Arizona Sahuaros…Philadelphia became the eighth franchise in Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) and will begin play in 2010. There’s still a chance another team may be added for the 2009 inaugural season…For those who haven’t heard, Americans Carlos Bocanegra and Brian McBride are leaving Fulham. McBride is likely to join his hometown Chicago club, assuming the Fire can acquire his rights from Toronto. Bocanegra is one of three free agents in Santander, preparing for the U.S.-Spain contest. Among the others is Eugene, Ore., native Nate Jaqua, who had been playing in Austria following five years in MLS…Want to see Thierry Henry? Go east. Barcelona will play Chivas in Chicago Aug. 3 and at the New York Red Bulls Aug. 6.