Brazil and Iran set for historic first match
Brazil steps into the unknown on Thursday when it plays Iran for the first time in a friendly in Abu Dhabi.
Coach Mano Menezes has assembled a youthful squad for the game at Zayed Sports City, with Barcelona defender Daniel Alves and AC Milan forwards Robinho and Alexandre Pato providing the star power.
Iran's football federation has long harbored hopes of a match against the five-time world champion, but in the end the game was organised in a matter of days and only confirmed Sept. 28.
Iran coach Afshin Ghotbi has described it as a ''wonderful match for all Iranians as well as people in all Persian Gulf countries.''
''Playing Brazil will measure our abilities,'' he said. ''Iran will put up a good performance against Brazil.''
Iran's players may be disappointed not to be performing in front of their home crowd, but with about 400,000 Iranians living in the United Arab Emirates, they can expect plenty of support come Thursday.
Brazil is in a transitional phase after a disappointing World Cup which ended in defeat by Netherlands in the quarterfinals and the departure of coach Dunga.
Former Corinthians manager Menezes has since stepped in and steered his side to a 2-0 victory over the United States in August in his first game in charge.
After four years under Dunga's conservative style, Menezes was lauded in his homeland for adopting a more creative approach against the U.S. and Brazilian fans will be hoping that continues on Thursday and in Monday's friendly against Ukraine in England.
Brazil, though, may not have an easy task against an in-form Iran side, and several Brazilian players commented on the oppressive heat as they arrived in Abu Dhabi.
''It's very hot here,'' midfielder Giuliano told Globoesporte's website. ''I didn't think it was going to be like this. It feels like I'm in a sauna.''
Iran has lost one of its last five matches as it builds towards the Asian Cup, which starts in January, and most recently defeated South Korea 1-0 in a friendly.
Ghotbi has an experienced squad to choose from, led by the 122-capped midfielder Javad Nekounam, who plays for Osasuna in Spain's La Liga.