Brazil have made such a habit of qualifying for the FIFA Confederations Cup that the competition would hardly be the same without them. Present on each of the last five occasions the 'Festival of Champions' has been staged, the two-time winners will make their eagerly anticipated entrance on Monday with a third crown firmly in their sights.
Lining up against Dunga and his men in Mangaung/Bloemfontein will be Egypt. Despite retaining their African title last year, the Egyptians face a very stiff challenge in a section that also contains USA and Italy and will need to show all their skill and daring if they are to test some of the biggest attractions in international football.
Quite apart from their contrasting pedigrees, Brazil and Egypt go into the FIFA Confederations Cup South Africa 2009 in very different frames of mind. Boasting a full-strength squad and buoyed by a recent return to form, the South American giants are brimming with confidence. The Egyptians, meanwhile, find themselves at the bottom of their South Africa 2010 qualifying group and will have to compensate for the loss of star striker Amr Zaki, who pulled up with an injury only a few days ago.
Worryingly for the rest of the field, Brazil seem to be peaking at just the right time to defend the title they won at Germany 2005. Just days before jetting off to South Africa, Dunga's side earned an historic 4-0 FIFA World Cup™ qualifying win over Uruguay at the Estadio Centenario in Montevideo, following that up with a crucial 2-1 home defeat of Paraguay. Those back-to-back wins took Kaka and Co to the top of the table in the South American Zone and helped Dunga earn the kind of praise that has largely eluded him in nearly three years in charge as coach.
Aboutrika v Luis Fabiano
Over the years the experienced Mohamed Aboutrika has learned to supplement his playmaking skills with a happy knack for scoring vital goals, none more important than the one that gave his side victory over Cameroon in the final of the 2008 CAF African Cup of Nations. The Al Ahly star has also been in good form in the run-up to the tournament, grabbing the only goal in a 1-0 friendly win over Oman and his side's consolation strike in the 3-1 defeat to Algeria last weekend.
Brazil have a reputable sharpshooter of their own in Luis Fabiano. With seven goals in the FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign so far, the latest of them coming in Montevideo last Saturday, the 28-year-old Sevilla striker appears to have made the much-sought after No9 shirt his own. And after sitting out the midweek meeting with Paraguay through suspension, the in-form hitman is keen to get back to business. "Missing that game has made me even more determined to do well against Egypt," he said. "I'm already missing that feeling you get when you score."
Monday's match at the Free State Stadium will be the first time the two sides have met in an official tournament. Their four previous meetings were all friendlies played on Egyptian soil, the last of them in 1963, when a Quarentinha goal gave Brazil a 1-0 win. Three years earlier A Seleção played the Pharaohs three times in a one-week tour of Egypt, chalking up comfortable 5-0, 3-1 and 3-0 victories. In the first of those games legendary right winger Garrincha scored the first of his 12 goals in the green-and-yellow jersey.
22 - The number of FIFA Confederation Cup matches Brazil have played in total. Only once have they ever lost to African opposition, that defeat coming at the hands of Cameroon at France 2003, with Samuel Eto'o scoring the only goal.
Did you know?
As five-time world champions Brazil carry a lot of weight on the pitch. But as team kitman Barreto knows only too well, they carry their fair share off it too, having brought an amazing 1.5 tons of equipment and supplies with them to South Africa.
"We're expecting a very hard match, a lot harder than a lot of people are expecting back in Brazil. Most of the Egyptian players aren't that well known around the world, but one thing's for sure; you don't win two consecutive continental championships just by chance. You need a lot of quality to do that." Brazil coach Dunga
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