Brazil, Japan get ball rolling
© AFP

Saturday’s opening match of the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013 between the hosts and Japan at Brasilia’s gleaming new stadium happens to involve the only two teams so far sure of a place at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™.

The game
Brazil-Japan, Estadio Nacional Mane Garrincha, Brasilia, Saturday 15 June, 16:00 (local time)

The stakes
Japan head into the tournament in good heart after recently booking their place at Brazil 2014 thanks to five wins in eight games in the final qualifying round in Asia. Cheered on by Brazil’s sizeable Japanese community, Alberto Zaccheroni’s side now have the chance to tune up for next year’s world finals against a variety of opponents from across the globe, starting with the tournament hosts.

The two teams faced off as recently as last October, when a Brazil side still coached by Mano Menezes won 4-0 in Poland courtesy of a Neymar brace and goals from Paulinho and Kaka, a notable omission from Luiz Felipe Scolari’s squad for the Festival of Champions. The Japanese have yet to beat A Seleção in nine attempts, losing seven times and drawing twice.

The experienced Scolari is slowly but surely bringing his influence to bear, with Brazil’s hard work on the training ground beginning to pay off, as shown by the recent 2-2 draw with England and the comprehensive 3-0 defeat of France.

The stat
2 ­- 
The number of survivors in the Brazil squad from the FIFA Confederations Cup South Africa 2009: goalkeeper Julio Cesar and right-back Dani Alves, both first-teamers. In contrast Vicente del Bosque’s Spain squad contains 14 players who appeared at the last Festival of Champions: Iker Casillas, Raul Albiol, Gerard Pique, David Villa, Xavi Hernandez, Fernando Torres, Cesc Fabregas, Pepe Reina, Alvaro Arbeloa, David Silva, Sergio Busquets, Juan Mata, Santi Cazorla and Sergio Ramos.

The words
“The team is coming together. I once read in a magazine that nature does things slowly. We need to keep on working to be competitive and win games,” Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari.

“The Confederations Cup will be difficult, but that’s what we want. There are nothing but quality teams in the tournament and that’s why we want to use the competition as a dress rehearsal for 2014,” Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni.