Although they haven’t looked as impressive as Argentina, Spain, and Portugal have so far, Brazil are still two wins from two matches and go into their final group match against Japan looking to improve once more.

"We played better than we did against Croatia and we will play even better in the next one," said coach Carlos Alberto Parreira referring to his side’s 2-0 win over Australia.

Many pundits say that the group stage of the tournament is just there to be navigated through safely, and that the real competition begins in the knock-out rounds.

If this is the case, then Brazil still have one more match in which to hone their skills before they click into full gear from the next stage onwards.

Team changes

Coach Parreira may change his starting line up for the first time in the tournament as he looks to rest those players on yellow cards to ensure their eligibility for the second round.

The Brazilians on yellow cards are defensive midfielder Emerson, right back Cafu, misfiring striker Ronaldo, and his usual substitute Robinho, with the Brazilian coach looking to bring Gilberto Silva into midfield and Cicinho in as cover at right back.

The patient Parreira hinted he will again start with the disappointing Ronaldo, even though he is on a caution, to see if he can score that elusive goal and gain some confidence as well as some further match fitness.

Rather than Robinho, when Ronaldo has had enough, last minute scorer against Australia, Fred is likely to replace the stocky Real Madrid striker, against a Japanese side with a big connection to their South American rivals.

The Brazilian connection

After France won the Jules Rimes Trophy in 1998 Japan brought in a Frenchman as their national coach.  When Brazil won it in 2002 Japan employed a Brazilian coach to lead them on their next campaign.  If Germany win this year’s World Cup, expect Rudi Voller to be the new national coach of Japan come late 2006. 

Artur Antunes Coimbra. 
Also known as 'Zico'.

Artur Antunes Coimbra, or 'Zico', took over as coach of Japan after the 2002 World Cup, and as an ex-player for Seleç?o Canarinho he of all people associated with Japanese football would be aware of the massive hurdle his team faces against Brazil. 

As a player in three World Cup Finals from 1978 to 1986, but never a winner, Zico downplayed the fearsome nature of the World Champions.

"We are not confronting an awful monster," he said.

"They are a strong team. But, as professionals representing Japan, we must never give up as long as there is the slightest of chances."


Japanese substitute striker Masashi Oguro was also confident of taking it to the champions and qualifying for the next round.

"Brazil are awesome up front. But their defence can be beaten in the centre and that is where I would like to attack," said Oguro who scored a late equaliser for his nation the last time they played Brazil.

The two teams last met in the Confederations Cup in Cologne last year with the score finishing 2-2, the Asian Champions twice coming from behind to draw level, which will give them huge confidence going into this match.

However with much more on the line this time, the Brazilians are unlikely to be as generous as they were that day in Cologne.

Japan made it to the round of 16 at the last World Cup Finals played on their home soil, but without the home ground advantage and a stadium full of their parochial fans the boys in blue could be looking at an early exit this time around.