Brazil and Italy face off on Thursday in a high-profile friendly in the Swiss city of Geneva in which both would test their forms for the upcoming matches.
Given Brazil’s five world titles and one less for the Azzurri, many feel that the term friendly should be used with caution.
Meeting the South-American giants reminds most Italians of the two defeats they suffered in World Cup finals in 1970 and 1994.
The Brazilians seek a prestigious win as they gear up for the World Cup they host next year, but have not forgotten a 3-2 defeat in 1982, when the Azzurri went on to lift their third trophy.
“In recent years we seldom played Brazil and we did rather badly,” said Italy’s goalkeeping captain Gianluigi Buffon, who was beaten five times in two defeats suffered in 2009 against the Selecao.
The 2006 world champion added that “the game in Geneva will be an important test. It will give us meaningful answers about the future and our confidence.” The game is crucial also for Brazil forward Kaka, who made a brief appearance when Brazil won their last title in 2002 and played in Italy with AC Milan from 2003 to 2009.
“There is one year left to the World Cup and I must profit from any available chance to convince the selector (Felipe Scolari),” said Kaka, who has played rarely in his fourth season with Real Madrid.
Among the top attractions in Geneva will be rising star Neymar, the 21-year-old striker from Santos who boasts of 17 goals from 28 games with the Selecao.
Italy’s ace is Mario Balotelli, who seems to have found his proper environment at AC Milan, where he netted seven goals from six games since arriving in January this year from Manchester City.
Coach Cesare Prandelli looks to pair him up with Milan team-mate Stephan El Shaarawy, giving up for the moment the idea of a three-pronged attack.
“When you gear up to meet Brazil you don’t have to waste time on mental aspects, because their very name commands respect,” Prandelli said. “So there will be no experiments as we play an important game.” The mouth-watering friendly precedes Italy’s visit on Tuesday at Malta for a World Cup qualifier that should keep them firmly at the top in their group.
Brazil has no qualification worries and will play another stimulating friendly with Russia on Monday in London.
A further clash with the Azzurri is already scheduled for June 22 in the group phase of the Confederations Cup.