Brazil count on three 'forgotten' men - Kaka, Robinho and Coutinho
JAPAN v BRAZIL
(Tuesday, 6.45pm, StarHub TV Ch 112/205 & 76.25MHz)
A football fiesta is brewing.
As of yesterday, 47,000 tickets for next Tuesday's glamour friendly between Brazil and Japan at the National Stadium, which seats 55,000, have been snapped up.
Japan fans are salivating at the prospect of players such as Shinji Kagawa and Keisuke Honda coming to town.
However, there will also be much scrutiny on the Selecao, who are on a mission of rebuilding and redemption after a disappointing World Cup last summer.
The 7-1 loss to Germany in the semi-finals in July triggered calls for renewal.
Neymar, the only Brazilian to emerge from the campaign with any credit, will continue to shoulder most of the responsibilities.
But three men who missed out on the World Cup altogether will be only too happy to show their countrymen what they had been missing: Kaka, Robinho and Philippe Coutinho.
Liverpool's Coutinho has much to prove.
The 22-year-old attacking midfielder started the new Premier League season in poor form and has failed to produce the same craft he demonstrated last year when the Reds came close to winning the title.
He may not start against Argentina tomorrow at the Bird's Nest in Beijing, or even against Japan, but the skilful playmaker will be desperate to make an impact off the bench, in the hope of, at least, keeping his name on coach Dunga's list.
Then there is Kaka, 32, a former World Player of the Year, and once the darling of Brazil.
After 18 months in the international wilderness, he is back in the frame.
A late inclusion after the injured Cruzeiro striker Ricardo Goulart dropped out of the squad, Kaka has critics to silence.
Some fans have voiced their disapproval at his recall, slamming coach Dunga for looking to the past.
Kaka may be no spring chicken, but coach and player once shared a special partnership.
The former AC Milan and Real Madrid star was the fulcrum of Dunga's side during the coach's previous spell in charge.
Many believe those were Kaka's best years in a Brazil shirt.
With 87 caps and 29 goals to his name, he is armed with the sort of experience Brazil need at the moment.
Though a short-term solution, Kaka remains one of the most incisive and visionary passers of the ball.
He has been instrumental to Sao Paulo's fine form in the Brazilian league, and has helped improve the fortunes of lost boy Alexandre Pato.
In the same vein, he could prove to be the catalyst for Robinho, as Brazil look to get the goals flowing like they used to.
After Fred and Jo flopped for the Selecao last summer, Robinho, with 93 caps and 27 goals, is a welcome prospect.
The striker was left out of Dunga's team for last month's friendlies against Colombia and Ecuador, but joined the squad when Hulk got injured.
The 30-year-old scored his 100th and 101st goals in the colours of Santos last week, and has impressed in his nine matches with the club, forging a good partnership with Leandro Damiao as he scored three times.
Brazil are anxious to find the answers.
But the solutions may have been lying there all this while.
"My relationship with Dunga is excellent, whether he is calling me up or not. What will determine my place in the Brazil team is what I do on the pitch, as with every player who is called. It’s only there that we can demonstrate that we should be here in the squad."
- Brazil forward Robinho