Brazil will be hoping to continue their fine post-World Cup run when they lock horns with Panama at Estadio do Dragao on Saturday evening.
The action-packed international break continues into the weekend, with two national sides from the Americas locking horns in Portugal. Brazil, who have been in fine form since their 2018 FIFA World Cup campaign ended in disappointing fashion, will meet Panama at Estadio do Dragao on Saturday.
Brazil had been one of the favourites at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, but an underwhelming campaign by talisman Neymar mirrored their own stuttering fortunes before they were finally knocked out in the quarter-finals. Since then, however, the Selecao have looked imperious, having won each of their six subsequent friendlies.
Panama, on the other hand, were one of the stories of the World Cup, despite the fact that they failed to win a single point at the competition. Having scripted an inspirational tale in the run-up to their group stage campaign, the Central Americans have been on a winless run, having failed to win any of their six games since their campaign at Russia 2018 ended.
Brazil were 2-0 victors the last time they faced off against Panama, with Jonas and Gabriel being the goalscorers. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Identifying his best possible squad for the Copa America will be on Tite’s agenda over the next three months. But, with several key players out injured, the Brazil head coach has had to shuffle his group around from the last time the national side assembled during the international break.
As many as ten players missed out in the original squad picked by Tite, with talisman Neymar being the major absentee for the Selecao. Fitness troubles though, have also forced Dani Alves, Filipe Luis and Vinicius Junior to withdraw their names from the squad.
Vinicius, in particular, had looked primed to make his Brazil debut upon receiving his first call-up to the national side. But, an injury picked up in Real Madrid’s UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second leg against Ajax means the youngster’s heartbreak has also translated onto international football.
In his stead, Richarlison, who has recently shown an upturn in form, should start in the front three, with Philippe Coutinho also earning an outing as a result of the shuffles. The Barcelona struggler, who is one of Tite’s go-to men, will now hope a return to familiar surroundings bodes well for his form. Meanwhile, Roberto Firmino should lead the line for Brazil.
In midfield, Casemiro will likely be tasked with screening the backline, with Lucas Paqueta and Arthur being the playmakers. But, the roles for the two players will be well defined, with Arthur pulling the strings in the middle of the park and Paqueta transitioning at pace.
At the back, Tite could use the game as a chance to hand Real Madrid’s first signing under the new Zinedine Zidane regime, Eder Militao a run out, with Miranda expected to be his partner. Fagner and Alex Telles ought to be the two full-backs, with the latter making his Brazil debut. Ederson should be deployed between the sticks, in what will only be his fourth outing for the national side.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ederson; Fagner, Militao, Miranda, Telles; Arthur, Casemiro, Paqueta; Richarlison, Firmino, Coutinho
Gary Stempel, who had replaced Hernan Dario Gomez post the World Cup did not last long in-charge of the national side, with national icon Julio Dely Valdes taking over as caretaker boss last month. The two matches this month are expected to be the only ones he will oversee before the federation zeroes in on a permanent head coach.
The interim Panama boss has named a much rotated squad in the latest iteration, with an inexperienced group set to take the field for Los Canaleros. In fact, of the 20 players that have been picked by Valdes, only four players have played more than five international games. So, who Valdes picks can be anyone’s guess.
What does appear to be certain is that the 52-year-old should pick the experienced players to guide those who have only just entered the unforgiving world of international football. To that end, the likes of Fidel Escobar, Armando Cooper and Abdiel Arroyo should all start on Saturday.
Escobar should be partnered by Ivan Anderson at the heart of the defence, with Francisco Palacios and Guillermo Benitez completing the backline that is likely to provide cover to Eddie Roberts. In midfield, Cooper will have the onus on him to keep his fellow midfielders disciplined against the threat of the Brazil attack.
Ernesto Walker ought to be the defensive midfielder, with Rolando Botello being the workhorse in the middle of the park. The star quantity in the side though, will be provided by Arroyo, who will lead the line for Panama against Brazil.
Probable Lineup (4-5-1): Roberts; Palacios, Anderson, Escobar, Benitez; Browne, Cooper, Walker, Botello, Buitrago; Arroyo
- Saturday’s encounter will be just the sixth time that these two nations have met on the international scene, with Brazil emerging victorious in each of the previous five contests without conceding a goal.
- There is a similar pattern in Brazil’s results post the 2018 FIFA World Cup as well, with Tite’s men winning each of their six subsequent friendlies without conceding a goal.
- Panama, however, are on a horrible run of form, having gone 11 games without a win – their last success came nearly a year ago, in April last year (D2 L9).
- The Panamanian squad is severely lacking in experience, with only four players having double digits in international appearances. The squad’s top scorer, Abdiel Arroyo, has a mere seven goals to his name.
Player to Watch
It has been quite a memorable season for Lucas Paqueta, who has not only broken into the Brazil national side, but has also made his first foray towards playing for a European club. The transition to representing one of the biggest clubs sides in the history of the game, AC Milan, has been quite a smooth one.
Having become an indispensable figure for the Rossoneri, now is the time for Paqueta to translate the same form for Brazil ahead of what will be his first start in the famous yellow. With several places up for grabs in the Copa America squad, a commanding performance against Panama might just do the trick.
Brazil 4-0 Panama
On paper, this game looks like a classic case of a David vs Goliath encounter, with Panama bringing a very inexperienced squad to the latest round of international fixtures. Brazil, on the other hand, are brimming with players who are high on confidence and are raring to go to stake claim in the squad for this summer’s Copa America.
With that in mind, it looks like there is only one way the tie will play out, with Brazil handing Los Canaleros a heavy defeat. In the end, the gulf of quality will be easily palpable, and The Hard Tackle thus, predicts a 4-0 win for Tite & co. on Saturday.