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Last Updated: Monday, 4 February 2008, 10:58 GMT
Tim Vickery column
Tim Vickery
By Tim Vickery
South American football reporter

Republic of Ireland fans are in for a treat this week when Brazil come to town; and the fact that Dunga's squad is not at full strength only adds interest to Wednesday's match.

Teenage defender Breno
Bayern Munich defender Breno is a potential star of the future

When Brazil last brought all their stars to Dublin four years ago there was a feeling that they were going through the motions, in a gentle preparation for the World Cup qualifiers to come.

This time Brazil are once more in the early stages of a World Cup qualification campaign.

But for this match their priorities are slightly different and it means that the squad is full of hungry, young players keen to make a name for themselves.

Teenage defender Breno, just snapped up by Bayern Munich, looked pure class in his first season last year with Sao Paulo.

His former team-mate Hernanes is a highly promising central midfielder with a good range of passing.

And then, of course, there is Anderson, who made a brief appearance last year in the Copa America.

Since then he has made a huge impression playing in central midfield for Manchester United, a position where Brazilians did not expect to see him. Will Dunga select him there against the Republic?

So there will be some fascinating experiments taking place and what adds spice to the occasion is that it will not be experimentation purely for its own sake.

The Olympic football tournament is big news across the Atlantic - it's the only title Brazil haven't won

What Brazil are seeking to do on Wednesday is build a team for this year's Olympic Games.

The Olympic football tournament may hardly rate a mention in Britain but across the Atlantic it is big news.

Reigning gold medallists Argentina are also fielding an Olympic side against Guatemala on Wednesday.

The tournament is seen as important for two reasons; first, because teams participate with an under-23 squad, which can be bolstered by three over-age players, thus making the Olympics a halfway house towards the next World Cup.

Many were surprised when Brazil's much-hyped team collapsed in the 1998 World Cup final.

Those who had followed their progress could not share the same feeling.

At that point the world champions did not have to go through the qualifying process, so the Olympic tournament was especially important to Brazil, in terms of providing much needed competitive matches.

Then coach Mario Zagallo happily assumed that, blessed with an excellent generation of talent, the Atlanta 96 side would form the basis of his World Cup team.

Their failure to live up to expectations caused the panic button to be hit. Dunga was brought back to provide midfield leadership, even though Brazil were well aware that he was past his best and would struggle to last through to the end of France 98.

Brazil coach Dunga
Dunga will be under extra pressure to win the Olympic crown this year

The other reason for the importance of the Olympic tournament is the fact, pure and simple, that it is a title. In fact, it is the only title Brazil have never won.

This heaps pressure on the head of the coach.

The last man to accumulate the posts of senior and Olympic team coach was Vanderlei Luxemburgo.

He went to the 2000 Olympics with his back to the wall, reeling from defeats in World Cup qualifiers and off-the-field problems.

After his Olympic team were eliminated by a Cameroon team reduced to nine men, he was sacked. Had he hung on and won the Olympic gold his story may well have turned out very differently.

Perhaps he, and not Luiz Felipe Scolari, would have enjoyed the benefits of a fit-again Ronaldo and taken Brazil to glory in the 2002 World Cup.

These are all reasons, then, for Dunga to hope that Wednesday's game against the Republic will help his team run Olympic rings around the opposition in China later this year.

You can put your questions to Tim Vickery every week on the World Football Phone-in on Radio 5 Live's Up All Night programme from 0230 to 0400 GMT every Saturday. You can also download last week's World Football Phone-in Podcast.


Got a question about South American football for Tim Vickery? Email him at

Can you give us any insight to Tottenham's new signing Gilberto? Is he highly thought of back in his homeland of Brazil and is he most comfortable at left-back or in midfield?
Andy Lawton

I heard a Brazilian pundit say that he will most likely play in midfield at Tottenham, although, to be honest, I would see him more at left-back.

Tottenham have missed a left foot to open up the field for a while and I see it as his most natural position.

It's nice to have such versatility, though. He is currently Brazil's first-choice left-back and, although he is by no means the best player to have filled that position, he is a steady figure who I see as a sound buy, in the short term at least.

Some time ago I read in your column something along the lines of: "Could it be that the Brazilian Championship is so weak that its player of the year (Carlos Tevez) is not good enough to play in one of the struggling clubs in the Premiership (West Ham)?"

A few years down the road, why don't you answer the following: Could it be that some English managers are so incompetent as to play Tevez as a left winger? Could it be that British football pundits are so myopic as to need a couple of years to recognise a good player when they see one?

Could it be that there is a good reason why the best Argentine and Brazilian players choose not to play in England - for good reason?

Oh, yes, the Premier League is so hard to adapt to that the likes of Kaka and Messi might need to learn a trick or two from an England star such as Peter Crouch.

Wake up.
Creso Sa

I picked out Tevez as a player to watch in the World Soccer yearbook, August 2002, and thereafter commented, both in that magazine and in this column, that his position was up front (Boca Juniors had originally seen him as a Riquelme replacement). I was wide awake from day one. Not guilty as charged.

But you have twisted my words about the problems of adapting to English football (speak to some of the South Americans who try it and see what they tell you).

You assume that because I am English then I must be a spokesman for English football in general and the Premier League in particular.

You seem to think that I will be offended by your observation that the West Ham coaches failed to get the best out of Tevez. I most certainly am not. I criticised them myself enough times for the misuse of Tevez and the amazing non-use of Javier Mascherano.

You seem to think that I will be offended by the fact that Messi and Kaka are better players than Crouch.

I most certainly am not. I relish the talent of both - especially Messi. Try to find someone else in the English language press who was raving about him three years ago.

I'm not a spokesman for English football, anything or anyone else apart from myself.

Brazil include Leiva and Anderson
22 Jan 08 |  Internationals
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