Football: Brazil and Japan stars will be in S'pore

Brazil's forward Neymar and Japan national football player Shinji Kagawa.

Expect the best from Brazil to trot out on the National Stadium pitch when the Selecao play Japan in an international friendly match in Singapore on Oct 14.

The New Paper had reported on July 22 that the five-time world champions will take on Japan at the 55,000-seater National Stadium. Organisers World Sport Group (WSG) confirmed the fixture yesterday, adding that both teams are almost guaranteed to bring their strongest squads here.

Malcolm Thorpe, WSG's vice-president for sports development and events, is not worried that both countries will bring under-strength teams as Brazil are slated to play a "Superclasico" exhibition match against Argentina in Beijing, China on Oct 11, three days before the Japan game in Singapore.

Said Thorpe: "The match between Brazil and Japan is a full Fifa 'A' friendly. Brazil are playing Argentina in Beijing on Oct 11 and that squad will be the same one playing here.

"I think it's fair to say that Brazil will pit their best 11 against Argentina. Similarly, with Japan, I can't imagine them bringing a 'B' squad to take on a team like Brazil."

This could mean that Barcelona star Neymar, who was sensational during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil with four goals before his campaign came to a painful end with a back injury, will strut his stuff at the National Stadium.

The Selecao had a fine campaign until the semi-finals when they were thrashed 7-1 by Germany and then were humbled 3-0 by Holland in the third-place play-off.

Luiz Felipe Scolari subsequently stepped down as coach and Dunga - the skipper of Brazil's 1994 World Cup-winning campaign - has since taken over the reins for a second time, having led the side at the 2010 Finals.

His new-look side could feature the likes of Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho, Robinho and Alexandre Pato, in addition to mainstays such as the Paris St Germain duo of Thiago Silva and David Luiz and Chelsea's Oscar.

Japan, the top-ranked country in Asia, also endured a poor World Cup, managing a solitary point in three outings as they crashed out at the group stage.

The Blue Samurai have recently appointed former Mexico boss Javier Aguirre to replace Alberto Zaccheroni and he will surely use the game against Brazil as part of his preparations for their Asian Cup defence in Australia next year.

If their clubs can release them, star names such as AC MIlan's Keisuke Honda and Manchester United's Shinji Kagawa are expected to be part of the Japan squad to face the Selecao.

Thorpe said that ticket prices for the match have not been worked out and declined to reveal if it would be around the price range for the Singapore Selection v Juventus game on Aug 16.

Ticket prices

Tickets for that match - the first football game to be played at the National Stadium - are priced between $45 and $180.

It is also too early to say if Brazil and Japan will be involved in fringe activities with fans and the Singapore national team before or after the fixture.

"Nothing has been fixed yet; the game has only just been locked down," Thorpe said.

"Both teams have games before their match here, so we'll have to see if time permits (for other activities).

"But, of course, it would be great if they could engage in other activities as well."

One thing's for sure. Football fans can look forward to more high-profile matches such as the Brazil-Japan clash.

"Even though Singapore aren't playing, the fact that the stadium is hosting such a massive game, showcasing world-class players, is an inspiration to the public," Thorpe said.

"Singaporeans have the opportunity to engage with sports and that's what the Sports Hub is all about."

And so will the Japan fans

In 2004, they packed the Jalan Besar Stadium as Singapore hosted Japan in a World Cup qualifier.

It was a sea of blue at the 7,500-seater stadium as hundreds of Japanese were unable to get tickets to the game, which the Blue Samurai won 2-1.

Expect the Japan faithful, known for their fervent support around the world, to swamp the new 55,000-seater National Stadium at the Sports Hub on Oct 14 when the Blue Samurai take on five-time world champions Brazil.

The Sports Traveller, a local company specialising in sports and adventure travel, confirmed that they have already received more than 40 travel bookings from Japanese tourists who are planning to watch the game in Singapore.

Tom Low, a partner of Sports360, which oversees the Sports Traveller, said that they are anticipating more than 400 bookings now that organisers World Sport Group have confirmed the Fifa "A" international friendly.

Said Low: "It's still very early, but we have already received two groups of 20 tourists, coming here just for the match.

"We're just one travel organisation; there are others which will arrange for their travel as well.

"I think it's fair to say that a few thousand Japanese fans could make their way down here."

Voted "Best Fans" at the recent World Cup in Brazil for their good behaviour, the Blue Samurai supporters made worldwide news when they stayed back after the match against Colombia in Cuiaba to clean up garbage in the stands.

Expatriate Kenji Saitake, 40, said that he is looking forward to soaking in the festival atmosphere at the National Stadium.

"The Japanese fans always (make) a lot of colour and noise during a football game," he said.

"I think many, up to 8,000 maybe, will travel here just for the Brazil game.

"We will outnumber the fans in yellow, for sure."

This article was published on Aug 8 in The New Paper.

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