The 2014 World Cup in Brazil is years away, but fans of the Brazilian team already are hanging on every move coach Mano Menezes makes as there will be huge expectations for the host team in a country that arguably loves soccer more than any other place on Earth.
Brazil has won five World Cups, more than any other country, and is the only nation to play in every World Cup. When that is the benchmark, a 2-1 quarterfinal loss to the Netherlands in the 2010 World Cup is not acceptable. So, the heat is on.
Menezes has called up Neymar and Ronaldinho for all three of Brazil's upcoming friendlies against Argentina, Costa Rica and Mexico. He will use all home-based players for Wednesday's match against Argentina, the second leg of the SuperClásico de las Americas. The Argentines and Brazilians played to an unsatisfying scoreless tie in the first leg, Sept. 14 in Cordoba, Argentina.
Neymar is expected to be joined up front by Santos teammate Borges , who is making his national team debut. The European league players will be added to the team for an Oct. 7 match against Costa Rica and an Oct. 11 friendly against México.
Among the players called up for those two matches are Daniel Alves and Adriano (Barcelona); Fabio (Manchester United); Marcelo (Real Madrid); Kleber (Porto); Julio César (Inter Milan); and Thiago Silva (AC Milan).
Two players who won't be available are Internacional forward Leandro Damiao , the top scorer in the Brazilian league, and Milan's Alexandre Pato . Both are injured. Flamengo's Ronaldinho will be counted on to get the offense going.
"We are lacking more positive results, but this is not about the outcomes against Argentina, against this or that team," Menezes said. "When you still cannot beat the best squads, it is clear that you are not yet on their level. And that's why you have a hard time to win, because they are better in some moments."
Genoa forward Rodrigo Palacio, who hasn't played for Argentina since 2008, was recalled by coach Alejandro Sabella for the start of World Cup qualifying. Argentina opens its qualifying run Oct. 7 against Chile and then plays upstart Venezuela on Oct. 11. As host, Brazil is an automatic qualifier, so the other nine South American teams are vying for four spots. The fifth-place team enters a playoff against an Asian Federation team for another slot in the 32-team tournament.
The most notable player missing from the squad is Manchester City forward Carlos Tevez , who struggled in Copa America over the summer.
Wambach on fire
U.S. veteran forward Abby Wambach scored two goals in a 3-0 friendly win against Canada late Thursday night. It was the sixth game in a row in which she scored. Alex Morgan scored the third goal in extra time.
"This is the last game for us for the season, so we wanted to go out with a win," Wambach said.
The U.S. players will rest until November, when they gear up for the 2012 Olympic qualifying tournament, Jan. 19-29 in Vancouver, British Columbia. Hope Solo played her 100th game for the United States on Thursday.
Claudio Ranieri was hired as manager of Inter Milan, the fourth coach at the club since Jose Mourinho's departure in 2010. Gian Piero Gasperini was fired Wednesday, just five days into his tenure, after a 3-1 loss to newly promoted Novara. Inter has just one point through three matches.