An experimental Brazilian side heads to the Emirates this afternoon to take on Scotland – and I, for one, can't wait.

After a frustrating exit at the World Cup all focus was immediately switched to the tournament's arrival on the sandy beaches of Copacabana in 2014.

But hosting one of the biggest events on the planet isn't enough for the Brazilian population – they need A Selecao to win it and to do so playing attractive football.

The Pre-amble

There's so much pressure on boss Mano Menezes that it's difficult to comprehend for anyone outside of the country. Imagine being in charge of the Old Firm or Manchester United and then magnifying that expectation and fanaticism by 190million. To them, it's inconceivable that the next Finals won't be won by the men in green and gold.

However, the 48-year-old former Corinthians gaffer has had it easy so far, given they're suffered defeats to both Argentina and France. However, after their clash with Scotland, Brazil have just one more friendly (against Holland) before the Copa America poses some far tougher questioning from fans.

Menezes wasn't first choice as manager for the South Americans with Muricy Ramalho expected to take over only for Fluminense to refuse his release. It puzzled pundits when Menezes was appointed as it didn't look like a true step away from the very un-Brazilian philosophy of previous charge Dunga.

But he tore up the script and set about injecting freshness and youth into an aging squad, dropping a staggering 19 members of the 23-man World Cup squad for his first match.

That sweeping change has seen prodigious talents like Kaka, Ronaldinho and Luis Fabiano removed from the running altogether – there's a promise that they will eventually return – in favour of those with little-to-no international experience. This youth-orientated team does have one eye on next year's Olympics, so it makes sense to select young eligible talent.

Santos wonderkids Paulo Henrique (commonly known as Ganso) and Neymar are seen as the future of Brazilian football. Their flashy contributions often light up their domestic leagues but it's been a bumpy start for both ‚Äď injury ruling Ganso of every match so far and he remains uncapped. Neymar, though, should lead the line against the Scots.

Because of injury and a willingness to experiment, Menezes has put together squads and tactics based on the players he has in the squad. This might seem like a fairly obvious, logical, way to go about things but it has meant that there's been a lack of momentum and cohesion in the early going.

Good news for the Tartan Army is that up front, there's no-one as terrifying as Ronaldo, Romario, Bebeto or Pele. Not yet, anyway.

Alexandre Pato isn't fit and Nilmar, of Villarreal, is injured. Fabiano hasn't been selected. In their place come Jonas – another Villarreal striker – who has yet to earn a cap and fellow debutant Leandro Damiao, who has scored 13 goals in Brazil's Serie A this season.

The Betting

Any of those sharp three players could take advantage of a sluggish Scottish defence but I think the main threat for the Samba stars is Neymar (11-8, Victor Chandler). His pace and trickery will be a nuisance and I'm not sure Gary Caldwell will enjoy being dragged here, there and everywhere.

Alan Hutton will be expected to get forward from defence for Scotland and he could be exposed by Jadson or Dani Alves. Between him and the recalled Maicon, we're probably looking at the two best wingbacks in the world.

Their relentless drives up the park means Ramires will be asked to step behind in cover, allowing Elano to be the playmaker once again. He's looked really comfortable in that role and his confidence is soaring after joining Santos.

He's another I'd look to for goals because of his late runs into the box and being there or there abouts at set-pieces (21-10 to score anytime, Victor Chandler).

Taking everything into account, I wouldn't be surprised to see Scotland sneak a result. Menezes will be looking at performances rather than results and chopping and changing throughout could see a very determined bunch of Scottish players make history.

A Scots win pays best at 8-1 with William Hill while the incredibly tempting double chance mark, a win or draw for Scotland, paying at 12-5 with Coral.
I've also got a strange pull towards 1-1 which is 10-1, also with Coral.


  • Neymar to score (11-8, Victor Chandler)

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