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Dream team is back in town

At Foxborough, Brazil's at home

At 20, Manchester United's versatile midfielder Anderson has already made a name for himself. At 20, Manchester United's versatile midfielder Anderson has already made a name for himself. (Adam Hunger/Reuters)
Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Frank Dell'Apa
Globe Staff / June 5, 2008

FOXBOROUGH - Much of the sporting world's attention has centered on Boston this week because of basketball. But the focus will expand even more as Brazil's national team prepares to meet Venezuela in an exhibition tomorrow night at Gillette Stadium.

A near-capacity crowd is expected, and the game will be transmitted to more than 100 countries, according to Kentaro AG, the Selecao's Switzerland-based promotional company. The Brazil-Canada match in Seattle last Saturday received a 24 rating in Brazil, equaling about 80 million viewers.

Though there is little at stake in this game - Brazil and Venezuela are in preparation mode for World Cup qualifiers - the matchup is attractive because of the Brazilians' worldwide appeal and the strong Brazilian immigrant presence.

Seven players on the Brazilian team were with championship teams in Europe this season, one (Anderson) performing for Champions League winner Manchester United.

Anderson, who turned 20 a month before Manchester United edged Chelsea on penalty kicks in the final, symbolizes a team in transition. Kaká and Ronaldinho are expected to return for qualifiers, but this is a chance for Milan striker Alexandre Pato, 18; Werder Bremen midfielder Diego, 23; Palmeiras defender Henrique, 21; Real Madrid midfielder Marcelo, 20; and Real Betis striker Rafael Sobis, 22.

Only nine players from Brazil's 2006 World Cup team are on this roster. Gone are Cafú and Ronaldo. Now, the points of reference have lower profiles: Bayern Munich defender Lucio and Sevilla striker Luis Fabiano; or are young: Adriano, 26, Daniel Alves, 25, Maicon, 26, and Robinho, 24.

Dunga and top assistant Jorginho performed for Brazil when it won the 1994 World Cup and also for top clubs in Europe. This is the first time the Confederacao Brasileira de Futebol has placed the team under the direction of coaches with European playing experience.

Brazil's upcoming qualifying matches are extremely difficult - against South American qualifying leader Paraguay in Asuncion June 15 and against Argentina in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, June 18. So, the team is training exceptionally hard and taking things seriously. Dunga disputed a report that a "light" workout was held earlier in the week without the starting 11, stressing that the 11 players who trained were taxed physically.

But this will also be a celebration. When the Brazilians defeated Mexico, 3-1, before 67,584 at Gillette Stadium Sept. 12, the atmosphere resembled a group stage World Cup match.

"This is great for the Brazilian community," said Dodó Mendes, a local radio journalist. "When Brazil plays in Boston, it's like a second home for the team. If they come back for another game, there will be even more people at the game. Brazil represents futebol-arte, it's the best in the world. And Brazil always brings in new players."

The Brazil-Mexico game was named the top Hispanic event of the year by the El Planeta weekly. It also spotlighted the presence of the Brazilian community in the area, a population that appears to be growing in numbers and stature.

Last month, Brazilian singer Roberto Carlos performed for the first time in Boston and drew a sellout audience at Agganis Arena, and another, Djavan, could do so Sunday at the Orpheum.

"This shows the buying power of the [Brazilian] community," said Revolution general manager Craig Tornberg. "The level of excitement for this event and the passion it generates are off the map.

"It indicates how important these events are to the Hispanic community in general. There is so much going on with immigration, the thoughts and fears, the homesickness, the normal issues of being in a new country. These events help tremendously, especially games like this, because by far more people love this sport than any other sport."

Brazil has also drawn the attention of the Celtics and Lakers, as Los Angeles star Kobe Bryant plans to attend tomorrow's game, and other players from both teams could be in attendance. Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski and wide receiver Wes Welker attended Brazil's training yesterday.

"They are the best of the best," Welker said. "I watched them growing up, and now I am getting a chance to meet some of them. I don't know if they knew me but I know them and so I'm sure I was more excited to meet them than they were to meet me.

"I don't really have a favorite team. I go for the US. But I just like to watch good soccer."

And that is the attraction for Brazilians, who are demanding of their countrymen, and for fans of the game, who appreciate a national team that has won five World Cups, more than any other country.

"Because this is being shown at a better time, not as late as the one in Seattle, there is a chance more people will watch," said Eric Soares Faria, a reporter for Rede Globo, a Brazilian network that will televise the match.

And the worldwide English feed will have a local flavor, announced by the Revolution's Brad Feldman.

"Brazil's national team is the gold standard for soccer," Feldman said. "Everyone is talking about this game, from New Hampshire to Providence, and they feel proud Brazil is coming back to what they feel is a second home."

A spectator who shouted a racial slur at Revolution forward Kheli Dube May 24 during a match at Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, will be banned from league games for life if officials are able to identify him, Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber said. The incident was captured on video and MLS and Crew officials are reviewing the situation. The slur was shouted at Dube, who is black, after he scored the winning goal in the 89th minute . . . The Revolution's Chase Hilgenbrinck, Brandon Manzonelli, and Chris Tierney trained with Brazil . . . The Revolution acquired former Wake Forest defender/midfielder Pat Phelan from Toronto FC for a foreign player allocation. Phelan will miss the Revolution-FC Dallas game tomorrow, the game preceding the Brazil-Venezuela contest, and will join the team next week . . . The Brazil-Venezuela game will not be televised locally.

Brazil-Venezuela
What:
Soccer exhibition
When: Tomorrow, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Gillette Stadium

Frank Dell'Apa can be reached at f_dellapa@globe.com; material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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