Play in Group B opens tomorrow with a game between Brazil and Venezuela at 4:00 PM local time (3:00 PM US/Eastern) in La Plata.
Along with hosts Argentina, Brazil are favorites to win the whole tournament. After a disappointing World Cup Campaign (Brazil went out to Holland 2-1 in the quarterfinal), new coach Mario Menezes will be eager to prove that the reigning South American champions have rediscovered their best form.
Brazil are in a rebuilding phase. There is no place for old faces like Kaka, Gilberto Silva, Juan, Ronaldinho and Luis Fabiano. Instead, Coach Menezes will use the tournament to integrate some of his country’s finest youth prospects into the senior squad.
Most exciting is Santos’ young striker Neymar, who has been the subject of extravagant bids from the best clubs in Europe. His 21-year old club teammate, the midfielder Ganso, is another up-and-coming star. Alexandre Pato will also be given a chance to shine. Despite scoring 50 goals in 101 appearances for A.C. Milan since 2007, previous coach Dunga largely ignored the 21-year old forward. Pato will be itching to claim his place in Brazil’s starting 11 for the 2014 World Cup, which his home country will host. He will be wearing his shooting boots in this tournament.
Brazil look a little light in midfield but have plenty of experience to call on in defense and attack. If they are to win, they will need good performances from goalie Julio Cesar, defenders Lucio, Maicon and Dani Alves, and attacker Robinho.
I hate to give short shrift to Venezuela but they are a team I’m not very familiar with. Most of their squad is locally-based. They have a few players scattered across the higher-profile German, Spanish, Dutch and Argentinian leagues. Juan Arango, an exciting midfielder playmaker, is one player I am familiar with from his excellent five year spell with Mallorca in Spain. He now plays for Gladbach of Germany. His through balls and long-range shooting will be Venezuela’s biggest threat.
I can’t see Brazil losing this one but maybe Venezuela will make like Bolivia and prove me wrong.
Prediction: Brazil 3 – Venezuela 1