Photo by ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
More than 65,000 spectators are expected to attend tonight's USA-Brazil friendly, and among them will be two national team legends who faced off in this same rivalry 16 years ago.
Former U.S. national team defender Marcelo Balboa and Bebeto, a star on Brazil's 1994 World Cup-winning team, will be in attendance at East Rutherford New Jersey for a match that will serve as an homage to the World Cup Round of 16 match the sides played in 1994, when Bebeto scored the lone goal in a 1-0 Brazil win against Balboa and the United States.
"(Brazil) has players with lots of quality. Lots of quality," said Bebeto, who is in town with Balboa to watch the game, and to take part in performance testing at the Gatorade Performance Lab. "It's going to be a difficult game because the United States is a team already set with experience and youth. The team is already set.
"Brazil is forming, looking to make a team. There will be players with lots of quality, like Ganso and Neymar, but it's important to have experience too. Without experience it will be difficult."
Bebeto believes new manager Mano Menezes is the man capable of leading Brazil back to its winning ways after being eliminated in the quarterfinals in the last two World Cups.
"He's a great manager," said Bebeto. "I've accompanied him for some time since he was with Gremio up to Corinthians. He did a great job at Corinthians. I'm sure that he will do a great job with the national team. He'll form a strong team."
The fact that Brazil's squad is notably younger than usual won't take away from a win should the U.S. come out victorious, a feat the team has only accomplished once (in a 1998 Gold Cup match) in 15 all-time meetings.
"It doesn't matter if it's a five-on-five game or an indoor game, a win against Brazil is a win against Brazil," said Balboa, who dressed but did not play in the United States' 1-0 win in 1998. "Is it different winning in an exhibition game compared to a World Cup? You can't compare. But beating Brazil, winning is what it's about.
"Beating El Salvador or Guatemala doesn't get thrown anywhere in the world, and no disrespect to CONCACAF. Beating (Turks &) Caicos or Trinidad or Jamaica, you won't make the headlines. Beating Brazil, beating Argentina, you get headlines. That goes around the world, that goes a long way."
Prior to watching the match tonight, Bebeto and Balboa will undergo testing together on Tuesday afternoon at the Gatorade Performance Lab in New York City. The two national team legends will undergo tests that estimate the amount of energy used and the source of energy used during physical activity.