Brazil-Panama Preview: Only minor changes for the Selecao
With the opening game of the World Cup less than two weeks away, the host nation will look to ensure their main men are fresh and utilise the rest of their 23-man squad
By Jack Davies
Dante and Hernanes look set to step into Luiz Felipe Scolari's first-choice World Cup starting XI when Brazil take on Panama on Tuesday.
The host nation play just two warm-up fixtures in the build-up to the tournament, beginning with Panama's visit to Goiana.
Paulinho and Thiago Silva have both felt minor knocks during the week at Brazil's Granja Comary training complex look set to sit out.
"Replacing the best in the world is never an easy task, but I have my own qualities, as well," said Dante, who appears comfortable in his role as reserve central defender.
"My goal is not to compete with Thiago Silva and Luiz, but to help them prepare in training and to be ready to play if I am needed."
Brazil's preparations conclude with a match against Serbia on Friday, when Scolari hopes to have a full 23-man contingent at his disposal.
"For the second match we will likely have all 23 players available and we will be able to set up the team the way we want,'' he added.
To the untrained eye, Panama appear strangely weak opposition for the tournament favourites to come up against as they prepare to lift the trophy for the first time since 2002.
The central American nation have never qualified for the global showpiece themselves, but have steadily climbed from a Fifa rankings low of 150 in 1995 to a high of 29 earlier this year and currently sit 35th.
In fact, a winning margin of two or more over United States in the final round of CONCACAF qualifying would have been enough to see Panama deny Mexico their place in a World Cup play-off against New Zealand, but a 3-2 home defeat saw them fall three points short.
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