Brazil's David Luiz and Co set to offer glimpse of future against Scotland
When the boys from Brazil run out against Scotland at the Emirates on Sunday, it will be an ideal learning opportunity for coaches, players and the public.
By Gerry Cox 9:27PM GMT 26 Mar 2011
Brazil's national side is in a transitional phase, with a new generation of players coming through. And as more and more Brazilians are playing their football in Europe, and particularly England, than ever before, it is fascinating to see how the way they play has evolved.
Mirandinha was the first Brazilian to play in England, when he signed for Newcastle in 1987. But the floodgates did not open, and there was merely a trickle of south American talent until much more recently.
Part of the reason was considered to be that their style of play was not suited to the English game, with Spain, Italy and Portugal a more natural home for them.
But as a more muscular approach has started to augment - or even replace - the flair for which Brazilian's are renowned, their players have become more tempting and more suited to the Premier League.
Two recent imports illustrate the point. Sandro of Tottenham and David Luiz of Chelsea are both ideal for English football; strong, skilful and full of aggression.
Indeed Luiz was the main reason Sir Alex Ferguson got into trouble with the FA, after the Brazilian escaped punishment for a number of brusque challenges when Chelsea beat Manchester United recently. He also showed superb technique that night, not only with a spectacular volleyed equaliser. He reads the game well, tackles and heads with the power of John Terry, and is comfortable with the ball at his feet.
Sandro is a similar player, albeit in a more forward position. He combines strength and skill in equal measure, covers the ground quickly and is fast becoming a fixture as Tottenham's holding midfielder. His man-of-the-match performance in Tottenham's away victory over AC Milan showed a maturity that belied his age (he was 21).
Luiz is only 23, but has already showed since his £24m transfer from Benfica in January that he can become one of the best defenders in the world.
Brazil's new coach Mano Menezes is clearly delighted to have them both. "Sandro and David Luiz are in different situations in the national team," he said.
"Luiz has played more often and impressed. I want to play him with Lucio, as they compliment each other's games greatly.
"As for Sandro, he has been playing very well at Tottenham and has played very well in previous international performances for Brazil. He is a first-class player who brings the ball forward well. He also marks well and when we play our friendly against Holland, we need someone in the middle like Sandro, to get close to Wesley Sneijder - that is the sort of game we need him for. If he continues to play well at Tottenham it will be great for us."
Their experiences a far cry from that of Robinho, who struggled to come to terms with life at Manchester City and took the escape route offered by AC Milan.
"I'm very happy to be playing in the Premier League for Chelsea. I'm realising my dream," said Luiz.
"It's a new experience for me. We can still win the Premier League and Champions League. We can still give a good fight, with lots of games left to play.
"I was happy at Benfica but right now I am in a new experience and I am just concentrating on that. I am very happy about the opportunity I have been given, at both Chelsea and Brazil."
Sandro concurs: "I am hoping to impress and take my chance against Scotland. I just want to make the most of this opportunity, and play well for Brazil."
He also has the prospect of a Champions League quarter-final against Real Madrid to come, but says: ". I am aware of how big the game against Real is going to be, but at the moment, I am just focused on Brazil. Playing for the national team is always very special to me and both games are big for me."
Scotland, for their part, are also rebuilding and Craig Levein will use the game to see how his side can cope, having pushed world champions Spain all the way in their European Championship qualifier last October, which ended in a 3-2 defeat.
"We tested ourselves against the best team in the world last October and came out of the match with a lot of positive thoughts and feelings," said Levein.
"This is another great test for us. I am relishing the fixture and I know the players are.
"There are players here for the experience, and if I can enhance that by getting them on to the pitch for ten or 15 minutes, that would enable them to feel more comfortable next time in a situation like this."
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