As if a soccer match between Brazil and Colombia isn’t appealing enough for a South Florida audience, Friday night’s clash at Sun Life Stadium features several intriguing story lines:
It is Brazil’s first match since its humiliating 7-1 World Cup loss to Germany and a loss in the third-place game. It is the start of Dunga’s second stint as Brazil coach and the return of Colombian star Radamel Falcao. And, most dramatic of all, it will be the reunion of Brazilian icon Neymar and Juan Camilo Zuniga, the Colombian who fractured Neymar’s spine when the players collided during the World Cup quarterfinal (which Brazil won 2-1).
Dunga, the 1994 captain and 2010 World Cup coach, is back in charge after being hired to replace fired Luiz Felipe Scolari. He kept 10 of the 23 players from Scolari’s World Cup squad. Neymar, Maicon, Ramires, Oscar and David Luiz are among the players still on the team.
Fred, Julio Cesar and Jo are out.
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Veteran forward Robinho is back on the roster as a late replacement for Hulk, who is injured. Other newcomers for the Gillette Brazil Global Tour include former teen sensation Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool), Ricardo Goulart (Cruzeiro) and Diego Tardelli (Atletico Madrid). Coutinho, now 22, has not played for the national team in four years.
“I’m very happy, it’s very special to me, and I hope to take advantage of the opportunity,’’ Coutinho said at a news conference at the team’s downtown Miami hotel Tuesday. “What happened at the World Cup is past. You can’t always win. With a lot of hard work, we hope the national team has good days ahead.’’
Ramires, a Chelsea midfielder, said the team is eager to put the World Cup behind.
“We will try to do what Dunga asks so that we can return to what was Brazilian soccer and what will always be Brazilian soccer,’’ he said. “Brazil isn’t just one World Cup. This World Cup didn’t end happily, but we have other World Cups in the future.’’
Goulart said there is always pressure being a member of the Brazilian national team, perhaps now more than other times.
“The Brazilian team is always under pressure because it is a great team that has won five World Cups,’’ he said. “There are very high expectations. When you wear the yellow shirt, you know this, but our whole group is prepared. It should be a great match against a very talented Colombian team.’’
Colombia coach Jose Pekerman, who is under contract until the 2018 World Cup, retained 21 of 23 players from the World Cup team, including Golden Boot winner James Rodriguez. He also included international superstar Falcao, who was injured and missed the World Cup. Falcao made headlines on Sunday after signing with Manchester United just before the transfer window closed.
Falcao, one of the game’s best finishers, is on loan from French club AS Monaco for this season, and Manchester United has the option to buy his contract after this year. He was also wooed by Real Madrid, Arsenal and Juventus.
The only two Colombian World Cup players missing from the team are Farid Mondragon and Mario Alberto Yepes. Newcomers are Aldo Leao Ramirez, Luis Fernando Muriel and Edwin Valencia.
Tickets to Friday’s match are available for $45 through TicketMaster and at the stadium box office.