Brazil and Japan on mission of discovery
On one side will be the greatest football nation in history; on the other, the kings of Asia.
The famous gold and blue will boast the likes of golden boy Neymar, Chelsea star Oscar, and the up-and-coming Coutinho of Liverpool.
The Blue Samurai will have their own firepower in playmakers Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa, who is desperate to re-establish himself after a failed tenure at Manchester United.
On Oct 14, the new 55,000-capacity National Stadium will host a glamour friendly never before seen on a Singapore stage.
Brazil will face Japan in an international friendly, with both teams on a mission of rediscovery after their disappointing World Cup campaigns.
While it is only two months or so after the World Cup ended in Brazil, an early assessment suggests Brazil's rebuilding work is on the right track, while Japan's new coach is still coming to grips with his new side.
Under World Cup-winning midfielder Dunga, Brazil have followed up their recent 1-0 victory over Colombia with another 1-0 win, this time over Ecuador.
New Japanese coach, Javier Aguirre, was not exactly over the moon after a 2-0 loss last Friday to Uruguay, but he did see some positives from the match against one of South America's top sides. Japan twice surrendered the lead to eventually draw 2-2 with Venezuela in Yokohama on Tuesday night.
Denied his first win with Japan, Aguirre, 55, will surely want his side to beat Jamaica on Oct 10 before the big game with Brazil four days later here at the National Stadium.
Before Brazil think about the clash with the Blue Samurai, they will first have to focus on deadly rivals Argentina, whom they meet in Beijing on Oct 11.
EASE SOME PAIN
Victory over the World Cup finalists will ease some of the pain that continues to affect many of the players and much of the nation, after their 7-1 humiliation by Germany in their ill-fated World Cup semi-final in Belo Horizonte, the worst defeat in Brazil's history.
Football is a part of the country's psyche.
After parting ways with Luiz Felipe Scolari, the Selecao have gone for a former player who actually held the reins before.
Dunga, 50, captained Brazil to World Cup glory in the 1994.
He took charge of the national team in 2006 but was dumped after a quarter-final exit at the World Cup in South Africa in 2010.
Now he has been given a second chance and his first competitive assignment will be the South American championships next year.
With only 10 players surviving from the World Cup debacle, his squad selection signals the start of a new era, although many of Dunga's critics still feel he is too conservative for any sort of return to the free-flowing attacking nature that has long been synonymous with Brazil.
The team's heart, soul and attack continue to revolve around Neymar.
It bodes well for Singapore fans that the mercurial attacker has revelled in his new role as captain - looking lively as ever against Colombia and Ecuador, although he did suffer an embarrassing miss in the latter game.
Dunga's first task is to restore confidence; he insists the flair will come.
Aguirre wants his men to show it now.
He has urged for more imagination from his charges, agreeing with the critics who branded Japan's play at the World Cup as "android football".
While he tweaks and experiments to see which system best fits the Blue Samurai, Aguirre will no doubt be scouring for talent in the much-admired J-League and some of the top clubs in Europe.
Perhaps what's needed now is for the former Mexico and Espanyol boss to add a touch of "picardía", or slyness, to Japan's style of play as well, ahead of their Asian Cup title defence in Australia next year.
Fans at the National Stadium next month will get the chance to see how Aguirre's revolution is shaping up, against a Brazil side that cannot afford to lose the match-up.
The fans will witness two footballing nations out to forget a "black" summer, and desperate to rise again.
- Cat 1: 10,000 seats — $180
- Cat 2: 10,000 seats — $110
- Cat 3: 16,000 seats — $70
- Cat 4: 16,000 seats — $40
'All positive' for Dunga
Dunga is certainly enjoying his second stint as Brazil coach, at least for now.
His side beat Ecuador 1-0 in an international friendly in New Jersey (yesterday morning, Singapore time), with a first-half goal from Willian enough to give the former midfielder his second successive victory.
The win came four days after Brazil beat Colombia and the result over a sprightly Ecuador side delighted the new manager.
"There weren't any negative points," he said, after the game. "You have to take positives from the negatives. You learn, you evolve. So for me it was all positive."
Brazil's winner came on the half-hour from a well-rehearsed free-kick. Oscar hit a short pass to star man Neymar, who lifted a curled pass over the defence to Willian, who slipped it into the net with the outside of his right foot.
Ecuador almost equalised six minutes later, but Enner Valencia's shot hit the base of the post after beating goalkeeper Jefferson.
The West Ham United striker also had a looping header cleared off the line by Filipe Luis 16 minutes into the second half, as Ecuador enjoyed their best spell of the game.
Brazil's best chance of the second half fell to Neymar in the 47th minute, but the Barcelona striker somehow missed an open goal from four metres out with the goalkeeper on the ground.
Although Brazil were not at their best, the two wins buoyed those players trying to impress the new coach, as the five-time world champions continued the mission to rebuild after the harrowing semi-final loss to eventual champions Germany at the World Cup at home in July.
"I feel like I did everything I had to do," centre-back Marquinhos, who made his first international start, said.
"It is always good to win. We have to get into our heads that are no easy games, there are no friendlies, they're all battles. These are games that we need to prepare for our objective and that is our mentality as we go forward."
Ecuador fielded a young team, but they were quick and fearless and frequently stretched a Brazilian back four that had never played together at international level.
The quartet of Danilo, Marquinhos, Miranda and Filipe Luis defended well, however, and a midfield featuring the Chelsea trio of Oscar, Willian and Ramires hassled and harried from the start.
Brazil had the better first half but they made several changes after the break, giving debuts to Cruzeiro striker Ricardo Goulart and Corinthians defender Gil and allowing Ecuador to get back into the game.
Brazil's next match will be against Argentina in Beijing on Oct 11, before a clash against Japan in Singapore on Oct 14.
Dunga's first competitive fixtures will come in next year's Copa America in Chile. - Reuters.