Italy out to end 31-year wait for win over Brazil
Italy haven’t beaten Brazil since a memorable victory en route to the 1982 World Cup title and will be looking to show off their newfound swagger in tonight’s friendly after last year’s run to the European Championship final.
Brazil haven’t beaten anyone of note lately and are looking to regain confidence under Luiz Felipe Scolari, who guided the Selecao to the 2002 World Cup and was brought back in Nov-ember to replace Mano Menezes. So it will be a friendly in name only when the two countries who share nine World Cup titles between them – five for Brazil, four for Italy – meet in Geneva this evening. It will also be a preview of their next meeting in June in the group phase of the Confederations Cup.
“Friendlies don’t exist with the national team,” Italy’s midfield maestro Andrea Pirlo said. “We know they’re a great team but so are we.”
Since Italy’s 3-2 win in Barcelona in 1982, Brazil have won four times and drawn once. In their last two meetings, Brazil have outscored Italy 5-0.
“Over the last few years we haven’t faced Brazil many times, but the few times we have met we’ve played fairly poorly,” Italy captain Gianluigi Buffon said. “So this is a big test for us to see where we’re at.”
Brazil lost 2-1 to England at Wembley last month in Scolari’s return and drew 1-1 with Col-ombia in their previous match in November.
Scolari could use a three-pronged attack featuring Neymar, Fred and Hulk, while Real Madrid playmaker Kaka could be an option off the bench. However, there are problems in midfield with Ramires, Lucas and Paulinho all out injured.
Italy are without defender Giorgio Chiellini, who was sent home with injuries to both ankles, but coach Cesare Prandelli has a wealth of options, keeping in mind a World Cup qualifier at Malta next week.
With Roma forward Pablo Osvaldo suspended for the Malta match, the Argentine-born striker could pair in attack with Mario Balotelli, who has scored seven goals in six matches for AC Milan since transferring back to Italy from Manchester City.
While Italy are unbeaten in World Cup qualifying, the Azzurri have not fared well in recent friendlies, losing 2-1 at home to France in November and drawing 1-1 in the Netherlands last month.
Brazil, as 2014 World Cup hosts, do not have to qualify and are playing a series of friendlies.
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