Weight of expectation ... Neymar is Brazil’s new star (Getty)
Brazil will be without Hulk but Australia will still face a team of superheroes when it takes on five-times world champion Brazil in Brasilia this weekend.
The ninth-ranked Brazilians will be without Hulk, Fred and Dani Alves because of injury, while Chelsea midfielder Oscar is also a doubt after leaving training early Thursday with an ankle complaint.
Still, Brazil is among the favourites for next year’s World Cup for a good reason.The football-mad country’s production line is so strong that any absentees should be replaced by players just as dangerous.
Veteran midfielder Mark Bresciano, one of three survivors from the Socceroos side beaten 2-0 in the teams’ last meeting at the 2006 World Cup, isn’t expecting an easy ride.
“No way,” Bresciano said. “They’ve got a lot of depth in their team, so I think regardless of who plays it’s going to be a very, very tough game for us.“
Bresciano put things in perspective when he reflected on Brazil’s elevated status.
“Our odds are very low but it’s not to say we can’t (win),” he said.
“We are coming up against probably one of the teams that is likely to win the World Cup, but anything can happen.“
Brasilia’s Mane Garrincha stadium will be awash with yellow and green on Saturday (Sunday AEST) but almost all the colour will come from patriotic Brazilians celebrating their independence day.
More than 30,000 tickets have been sold.
The atmosphere may be especially intimidating with reports that protests are planned outside the ground to express anger at the cost of new stadiums for the World Cup.
Captain Lucas Neill, who with goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer also played Brazil in 2006, is looking forward to a party atmosphere in a country where football is almost a religion.
“It’s going to be a really exciting day on Saturday,” Neill said.
“We’re very proud to be part of the celebration of Brazilian independence day, but at the same time we don’t want too much partying.“
The Socceroos have one win and a draw from six games against Brazil and conceded 11 goals in its past four defeats.
And the defence is sure to be tested again by an imposing attack that features Neymar and Lucas Moura.
The Socceroos have lost Tim Cahill and Luke Wilkshire to injury but Neill said Holger Osieck’s side will revel in being the underdog.
Unlike Brazil which was surprisingly beaten by Switzerland last month, Australia has no pressure to produce a win.
“Australians for as long as sport’s been around have always risen to a challenge, have always liked the tag of underdog, liked to surprise the sporting world with a shock result,” Neill said.
“We know it’s going to be a very hard game against arguably the best team in the world with possibly the best players in the world but I see that as a great reason to challenge ourselves.“