Brazil coach Carlos Dunga has the perfect opportunity to win over the critics when his side face world champions Italy in tomorrow's glamour friendly in London.
Dunga has found it hard to please Brazil's demanding football public since taking charge after the 2008 FIFA World Cup™. The 45-year-old's cautious tactics have infuriated fans and pundits who believe he is betraying the Seleção's purist principles.
Brazil have been efficient without capturing the imagination during Dunga's reign and, even though they are unbeaten since last June, there are plenty in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo who will tell you that the team will have to improve dramatically to win the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. But a victory against the Italians at Arsenal's Emirates Stadium would provide solid evidence that his tactics can deliver the success craved by one of football's most passionate countries.
Dunga, who captained Brazil to FIFA World Cup final success over Italy in 1994, can point to a 6-2 friendly win over Portugal as proof he is on the right track. However, the critics could respond by drawing attention to goalless draws against Colombia and Bolivia in recent FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar is in no doubt about the significance of a victory. The Inter Milan star would love to go back to Italy with a win over his adopted country under his belt, but more importantly he believes it would be a massive morale boost as the FIFA World Cup countdown continues. "It will be a special game for us Brazilians who play in Serie A," he said.
We are determined to do well because we want to start 2009 with a win and we know we have what it takes to trouble them.
"I think it is one of the most important games I have ever played for my country. It would be nice to win because some of us will be heading back on the same plane with the Italian players. We are determined to do well because we want to start 2009 with a win and we know we have what it takes to trouble them."
Dunga appeared to make a concession to the calls for more entertainment by bringing Ronaldinho back into his squad. The AC Milan forward had been consigned to international exile for some time but he is sure to be given a chance in the absence of his club colleague Kaka, who pulled out after suffering a foot injury during Saturday's 1-1 draw against Reggina. Manchester City's Robinho and Inter Milan's Adriano are also in the squad, while Fiorentina midfielder Felipe Melo is called up for the first time.
Italy will be motivated by the chance to make history in front of the sell-out 60,000 crowd as coach Marcello Lippi attempts to set a new record for successive international games without defeat. Over the course of Lippi's two spells as Italy coach he has gone undefeated since losing to Slovenia in October 2004. He will extend that run to 32 games with a positive result against Brazil.
Although the Italians are on course to qualify for the FIFA World Cup, there is still work for Lippi to do however after some recent lacklustre performances in draws against Greece and Bulgaria. Gianluigi Buffon, Andrea Pirlo and Gianluca Zambrotta return to Lippi's squad for the first meeting of these global superpowers since 1997, but there is no place for Juventus star Alessandro Del Piero.