Ronaldinho named captain for friendly
SAO PAULO (AP)
Ronaldinho will captain Brazil in its friendly against Chile on Wednesday, moving into a strong position to confirm his spot in the Confederations Cup squad.
Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari reiterated his confidence in the two-time FIFA player of the year on Tuesday, picking him to lead the team in its final match before the Confederations Cup squad is announced.
Scolari has already said he will likely choose between Ronaldinho and Kaka for the World Cup warm-up tournament in June. Kaka will miss the Chile match because only players from Brazilian clubs were selected for the friendly, meaning Ronaldinho could secure his spot with a good performance in Belo Horizonte.
''He is so important that I chose to name him the team's captain again,'' Scolari said in a news conference. ''I want to see the team captain to show attitude and leadership, and that's what I expect from Ronaldinho, that he plays up to his potential and that he leads this team.''
The 33-year-old Ronaldinho captained Brazil in the team's 4-0 win over Bolivia in a friendly earlier this month, also when only players from Brazilian clubs were selected.
Ronaldinho made Scolari's squad for the friendly against England in February, the coach's first since resuming charge of the national team in December. The former Barcelona playmaker missed a penalty kick in the 2-1 loss at Wembley and was left out of the next two matches, against Italy and Russia.
Scolari said he also wanted to give a chance to Kaka, who was picked for the team which drew the Italy 2-2 and the Russia 1-1. The Real Madrid midfielder did not impress and received lackluster praise from Scolari.
''Ronaldinho has the advantage because he played against Bolivia and he will play again tomorrow (Wednesday),'' Scolari said. ''And he has been playing regularly, while Kaka is having more difficulties (getting time at Real Madrid).''
Ronaldinho, who was a starter in Scolari's team that won the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan, has been thriving with Atletico Mineiro, which advanced to the round of 16 of the Copa Libertadores, Latin America's most important club competition.
Scolari said he still has three spots open in the Confederations Cup team, with ''two or three players'' fighting for each one of them.
''The more I can observe the players, the better,'' he said. ''It's possible that some of them will secure their spot tomorrow (Wednesday).''
The match will serve as a test event at the Mineirao, one of the six stadiums built or renovated for the Confederations Cup, which will be played from June 15-30. Local organizers will be present to observe all aspects related to the stadium, from crowd management to the quality of telecommunications.
The Confederations Cup is played among continental champions plus the World Cup winner and the host nation. Eight teams qualified: Brazil, Spain, Italy, Uruguay, Japan, Mexico, Nigeria and Tahiti. The tournament begins with Brazil facing Japan in Brasilia, the nation's capital.
Belo Horizonte will host three Confederations Cup matches, including one of the semifinals.